Philly comes clean with inspection data

The Philadelphia Health Department says it has changed its policy and is moving to post restaurant inspection reports as quickly as possible. reports the decision announced Monday marks a shift from the department’s long-standing policy of keeping inspection reports secret for 30 days.

The website reports Philadelphia is the only major city in the country to withhold inspection results from the public for a significant length of time.

Health Department spokesman Jeff Moran says the non-disclosure period isn’t required by code and isn’t consistent with the mayor’s open-data policy.

Officials say the withholding period has existed for at least three decades.

The health department inspects about 12,000 food establishments each year, including 5,000 eat-in restaurants.

Those inspections have been an ongoing problem for one restaurant.

Joy Tsin Lau, an institution in Chinatown, has well over 250 health code violations over six years- some deemed serious a public health nuisance.

It’s a history the manager didn’t want to talk about in September.

 “It’s outrageous, I just don’t understand how it’s still open,” says Sammy Green.

She was among one hundred lawyers who got sick with a norovirus after a banquet at Joy Tsin Lau in February.

Sammy says, “It was easily the worst couple days of my life.”

A health department inspection two weeks before the banquet found serious violations including a lack of soap in the employee bathroom.

A lawyer for the restaurant refused comment.

Richard Kim is representing Sammy in a lawsuit against the restaurant. “It’s a sordid history, it’s amazing to see that a business can operate with these kinds of violations in place,” Kim says.

One week after the banquet, another inspection found 41 violations. But customers wouldn’t have known because the inspection reports were kept secret for 30 days to give restaurants a chance to appeal.