Pennsylvania eatery inspections not enough

According to this editorial, it’s too difficult for Pa. diners walking into a restaurant to know if it has failed inspections recently.

Insect infestations. Rodent droppings. Unsanitary food storage.

web1_Restaurant_Inspections_WingsUnfortunately, these are common problems uncovered by state restaurant inspectors – who provide an important service to protect diners against illness or even death.

But a recent YDR inspection of the inspection system shows that it could be more useful and transparent for citizens.

The state does not require restaurants to post notices when they have failed inspections. Restaurants are required to post a sign saying the most recent inspection report is available upon request. But it’s up to customers to ask to see those reports. How useful is that? How many people walking into a restaurant would feel comfortable asking for an inspection report?

Customers can also check out inspection reports online. But that database is not easy to find and is very difficult to use on a mobile phone. You can find the database at the state Department of Agriculture’s website, but how many people would guess they need to go to the ag department for that information?

State officials will find that people really want easy access to this information. YDR reports on restaurant inspections are among the most popular stories on our website.

The state should develop an app.

The state largely depends on the power of shame to punish poorly run eateries. Publicity about failed inspections can result in business losses.

Restaurants with severe violations can also be fined – an average of $100.

Is that enough? And are fines and civil penalties pursued often enough?


Most inspectors don’t levy fines because then they have to show up in court – a big hassle for a measly $100 fine. But when people’s lives are potentially at risk because of poor food handling, it’s worth the hassle of a court appearance.

State lawmakers should consider increasing fines – particularly for chronic inspection failures. And the state should charge restaurants that fail inspections for all follow-up visits. As it stands now, the first re-inspection is free.

Another thing lawmakers should consider: A visible rating system for restaurants.

Some other states use systems whereby restaurants are graded (A, B, C, D, F) or given a color code (green, yellow, red) based on inspection results.