Hold Australian restaurants accountable: Food ratings in one state, shot down in another

Sometimes I don’t understand this country called Australia.

western-australia-kangaroo-beachTen days ago, Canberra, the former sheep-farm now acting as the Washington, D.C. of Australia, decided to abandon any plans for restaurant inspection disclosure. I did a live radio interview with a Canberra station, in my goalie skates, during an (ice) hockey practice on Sunday that Australian Capital Territory chief health officer, Paul Kelly, decided he was too busy to do.

Must be nice to have a government job.

Yet the next day, the state of South Australia declared that its pubs, cafés and restaurants will be able to publicly display the food safety rating they receive during council inspections.

A successful trial period has laid the foundation for the new program called the Food Safety Rating Scheme. The rating will be based on the business’s scores for a variety of criteria gathered by council health inspectors.

“Since the scheme started, three, four and five star certificates have been awarded to more than 800 local restaurants, cafes and pubs based on how well they did in their regular council inspection, which is a great result,” said SA Health Director of Food and Controlled Drugs, Dr Fay Jenkins.

“Of the businesses inspected so far, 54 per cent received a certificate with a star rating, demonstrating appropriate food handling skills and a clean and safe food preparation environment.”

“If a business does not meet the national food safety standards they will not be awarded a star rating and appropriate actions will be taken to ensure the business rectifies any problems. In most cases issues are resolved very quickly,” said Dr Jenkins.

Since the South Australian pilot program began, five-star certificates have been awarded to 389 food businesses, four-star-certificates to 328 and three-star certificates to 168.

However, a business will not have any obligation to display their food safety rating because the new scheme is voluntary.

That’s just dumb.

And now, a pizzeria owner has threatened a disgruntled customer with legal action alleging they defamed his business in a negative online review.

Law graduate Julian Tully wrote on travel site TripAdvisor that dining at an Adelaide pizzeria was “the worst service and experience” and warned people to “stay away”.

Mr Tully and friends had attended a $40-a-head birthday banquet on October 10 and alleged they were treated “in a fashion I don’t think was possible”.

“For 7 people we got a tiny amount of food (waiting more than 50 minutes between portions) and when we tried to complain in a reasonable way we literally got told ‘we have had our fill’ and ‘we shouldn’t go out for dinner if we can’t afford it’,” he wrote in the October 11 review. “They then called the cops on us because we walked out. Avoid like the plague!”

Sounds like Australia.