Clearly communicating food service inspection results through haiku

Health officials throughout the U.S. (and elsewhere) continue to push city, county and state politicians to help them communicate how businesses they’ve visited have fared in inspections. After following the situation for about 10 years, the discussion is predictable – opponents often cite how complicated an inspection form/grade/sign is and say folks wont understand it. Or they suggest businesses will be hurt if inspectors aren’t careful with their words. John Norton of the Pueblo Chieftan reports that as the Pueblo City-County Health Department explores posting inspection reports online, the latter was a concern of a local board of health member, Eileen Dennis.

Dennis expressed concerns about how reports would be worded. Pleased with a sample page on a local restaurant that Carlton showed them, Dennis said, “My concern about the comments was that there wasn’t any poetic license taken. The verbiage is very objective.”

Vicki Carlton, manager Pueblo City-County Health Department environmental health program said that even though data goes back many years, she decided to limit reports to the previous 12 months in order to simplify the system but still show some history of inspections. The reports will include noncritical violations and will list critical item violations in red. The critical violations are direct threats to public health and must be dealt with quickly.

KATIE FILION: Rodents run amuck at Toronto Loblaw’s

A Loblaw’s Supermarket in Toronto, Canada, is closed following a customer complaint regarding a mouse inside the store.

Toronto Public Health (TPH) officials closed the store last night, and already Dinesafe, a website designed to disclose inspection results for food premises in the Toronto area, has updated its most recent inspection findings to include infractions discovered last night, such as:

•    failure to ensure food is not contaminated/adulterated;
•    failure to prevent rodent infestation; and,
•    failure to maintain hazardous food(s) at 4C (40F).

According to Dinesafe, the Dupont St. Loblaw’s has passed the last ten TPH inspections, dating back to April 2007.  But are restaurant inspections a good indicator of the quality of an establishment? Or simply a brief snapshot of a food premise at one point in time? And are web-based disclosure systems like Dinesafe the most effective way to communicate inspection results to consumers?

News reports like the ones in the Toronto Sun or Globe and Mail, websites like Dinesafe, and blogs like this or blogTO, get the information out there to consumers. What I am interested in is which of these methods is the most effective.