Another audit, more failings with restaurant inspection, Nebraska-style

From the state with the creepiest football mascots, Nebraska’s Douglas County’s switch from paper to digital food safety records is taking much longer than expected, leaving restaurant patrons in the dark.

nebraska.cornhuskersEighteen months have elapsed since the Douglas County Health Department signed a contract for a digital record-keeping system to track inspections of food and drink establishments. But persistent delays with the software vendor have pushed back the start date into next year.

The lack of progress was highlighted this week when State Auditor Charlie Janssen released an audit showing that food safety inspections in Nebraska are routinely late.

Douglas County health officials disputed the audit’s findings, but it took some time for them to assemble the numbers to back up their claims.

That’s because in Nebraska’s largest county, those records still exist only on paper.

Douglas County Health Director Adi Pour acknowledged that restaurant inspections sometimes lag in the spring, when food and drink inspectors are busy helping other divisions. But the backlog is always cleared, she said.

ghostbuster.marsmellow“At the end of every year, we are caught up,” she said.

As The World-Herald reported last year, inspection records for food and drink establishments can be difficult to obtain in Douglas County and elsewhere in Nebraska.

Unlike many other cities and states in the region, Douglas County does not have an electronic system to manage those public records. Instead, every month, the department posts a snapshot of inspection scores online.