Fail: Restaurant inspection disclosure programs that remain voluntary

Toronto, Los Angeles and New York City, along with hundreds of jurisdictions have figured this out: public health should disclose public health ratings, at the door, when people make up their mind about entering an establishment to brisbane.stars.scoresspend their money.

But the UK and several Australian states go through this convulsed process where they have scores on doors, but restaurants only have to post them if they want to, and who knows about food in school or hospital cafeterias.

The Brits were never ones for public disclosure (see Mad Cows and Mother’s Milk, 1997, or Yes, Minister).

Australian newspapers are reporting that customers are demanding voluntary food hygiene ratings become mandatory across New South Wales restaurants.

Same in the UK.

As someone who has been involved in these public disclosure efforts, including NSW’s back in the day, and advocated mandatory public disclosure from the beginning, it’s painful to watch the contortions.

According to The Border Mail, “Some retail food businesses in NSW display their  rating in the window, but only if their council signs up to the program and only if the business is happy with its rating.

Councils and industry groups are calling on the NSW Food Authority initiative, Scores on Doors, which issues certificates with three, four and five-star ratings during routine health inspections, to be made mandatory to standardise food safety across NSW and give customers more consistent information about hygiene at food establishments.

Since the program was launched in 2010, only about one-third of local governments in NSW have adopted the system.

North Sydney Council is the latest to announce that from July 1, following annual food safety inspections, it will begin issuing certificates that eateries can then choose to display.

“If a restaurant is displaying the purple and green poster, it has met minimum hygiene and food safety standards during the last food inspection. If it’s not displaying one, they can ask why,” North Sydney mayor Jilly Gibson said.

Wok On Inn at The Rocks, which scored five stars, has been displaying the certificate since the end of last year, and waiter Sunny Dongdang said he thinks that all businesses should be required to do so.

The best places will always come forward.

Scores on doors should be mandatory; can’t just choose to ignore a bad inspection grade; Wales will lead in UK

Restaurants and takeaways in Wales could be required by law to publicly display food hygiene ratings on their premises.

It would be the first compulsory "scores-on-the-doors" scheme in the UK, the Welsh government says.

Ministers want customers to get more details about where they eat or buy food and say this will raise standards.

The proposals follow E. coli outbreaks in Wales which led to calls for a tougher stance.

Karen Morrisroe (right), who became seriously ill after an E. coli outbreak linked to a fish and chip shop at Llay, Wrexham two years ago, told BBC Wales, "I’m all in favour of a mandatory system. I know it could put some people out of business but if this is done properly it will provide customers with better protection."

During the outbreak it emerged that the fish bar had been given a 0 out of 5 rating by council officials after an earlier food hygiene inspection.

Under the scheme, businesses will be rated with a score of between zero to five based on standards on how the food is prepared, cooked, cooled and stored, as well as the condition of the premises.

All food businesses, including supermarkets, will be required to display their score in a prominent position or face fines of up to £1,000. Ratings will also be available online.

A statement from the Welsh government said a mandatory scheme has been backed by Prof Hugh Pennington who chaired a public inquiry into the 2005 E.coli outbreak in south Wales.

About 30,000 businesses in Wales would be covered by the scheme which could be in operation by 2014.

Currently, more than 13,500 have been rated under a voluntary scheme operated by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), although it is estimated that only one in three display their rating.

Scores on Doors should be mandatory in Queensland: picture proof

Sunday morning in Brisbane, Australia, where the birds start their symphony about 4 a.m., fully light by 4:30 a.m., getting ready to listen to some Kansas State football, and photographs in the Sunday Mail of food service cold rooms, many of them “too gross to publish.”

The Sunshine Coast-based company Jaymak has provided pictures of the unappetizing conditions found inside the cold rooms of some of the state’s restaurants and eateries, in support of calls for a mandatory "scores on doors" scheme.

Some cities like Brisbane have voluntary schemes, which is sorta dumb.

One of the worst cases involved a decomposing bird stuck in a cool room compartment at a fast food chain.

Photographs from other cool rooms reveal the build-up of mold and slime.

Jaymak owner Arie de Jong said the "ugliest" conditions were found within hard-to-reach air compartments, but the conditions could quickly spread mold and bacteria to food storage areas.

For a review of the purpose of restaurant inspection disclosure schemes and our experiment in New Zealand, see:

Hygiene scores of all Wales food businesses to be made available to the public

The hygiene scores of all food businesses in Wales will be available to the public in about six months, the South Wales Echo can reveal.

Star ratings from zero to five allocated under the Food Standards Agency’s scores-on-the-doors scheme will be listed on a single website.

The move is in response to increasing public pressure to make caterers more accountable in the wake of South Wales’ deadly E.coli O157 outbreak.

It will mean that for the first time, consumers will have the ability to choose to eat or buy their food from the most hygienic businesses.

Sharon Mills, mum of South Wales five-year-old Mason Jones who died after contracting E.coli in 2005, told the Echo the development was an important step forward in the fight to make food safer.

But she said she was disappointed the businesses themselves would not be forced to display the star ratings on their premises.

Watchdog Consumer Focus Wales also called on the Food Standards Agency to pursue a change in legislation to make it compulsory for food businesses to display their scores in a hard-hitting report published last month on the lack of progress in making food safer following the E.coli outbreak.