Michael Scott eats: restaurant inspections in Scranton and elsewhere to go online at state website

Diners in Scranton, Pennsylvania, famous as the home of The Office, will soon be able to check food-inspection reports from all of their favorite eateries online.

Michael Scott will need to learn to use a computer.

With enactment of a state law, Act 106, in late January, people will soon be able to find all reported restaurant inspection reports online at a state Department of Agriculture website. The law also codifies common standards for municipalities across the state to follow.

Before the law took effect, 167 local jurisdictions were permitted to have their own inspection processes and reporting mechanisms.

In Scranton, the administration is acquiring a hand-held electronic device from the Agriculture Department at no cost that will allow the health inspector to gather data at a food establishment, bring it back to City Hall and transmit it to the state for posting, said Mark Seitzinger, licensing, inspections and permits director. Council authorized the city’s acquisition of the device last week.

"We are creating a letter that will be sent to all businesses," Mr. Seitzinger added. "Our health inspections are done on a yearly basis."

For more information, go to www.agriculture.state.pa.us, keyword "Food Safety Inspection Results."

Restaurant inspection results now available on-line for London-lite

As of 10 a.m. EST today, residents of London-lite (Ontario) can access the results of restaurant inspections back to June 2009 on-line at http://inspection.healthunit.com

Two weeks ago, London Free Press reporter Jonathan Sher ran a piece noting that local health types had promised a public disclosure system similar to Toronto’s red, yellow, green 16 months ago. The health unit had gotten busy and key personnel had departed, all reasonable explanations.

On Feb 11/10, Sher ran another piece, which disclosed that London diners unknowingly ate at places last year where inspectors found horrors from flies to feces.

Health inspectors shut down seven restaurants last year in London for stomach-turning reasons including:

* Egg noodles bound for diners were picked at first by flies that descended on an open container on a kitchen floor.

* A ventilation hood dripped grease on the food beneath.

* A restaurant with no hot water still made food — just with no place for kitchen staff to wash their hands.

* Mouse-like feces found on plates, shelves, behind the stove, on kitchen floors and behind a walk-in freezer.

* Uncovered food found on a food-encrusted floor in a walk-in fridge.

* Rags dirty from raw and cooked foods left on cutting boards.

* A restaurant with many health violations, even though a staffer had just completed the health unit’s food handling course.

If this were Toronto, red signs would have warned diners the places had been closed for something more serious than a holiday or renovation.

I told Sher there’s no doubt signs and other methods of public disclosure drive restaurants to be more careful, and that,

"They up their game . . . they don’t want the publicity.”

Today, The Middlesex-London Health Unit has launched a new, online resource for information on city restaurants.

Amazing how fast these things move with a little publicity.

Websites on stickers so consumers know where their food is from: still a cool idea 10 years later

Eat Me Daily looks like a decent enough food blog that found a chicken producer doing what I told the Ontario greenhouse vegetable growers they should be doing 10 years ago: if not marketing food safety directly, at least provide information for those who care, in the form of a url that the inquisitive type could follow up on at home.

So we were at the grocery store this weekend, and came across a Murray’s Chicken with a sticker on it with a Farm Verification code, offering to let us "find out where this chicken came from and learn more about the family that raised it." … It even hooks into the Google Maps API to show you exactly where the farm is on a map. … Our code, 0289, revealed that our chicken was raised at 1020 Alvira Rd in Allenwood, PA 17810 by David Bowers. Hats off to you Mr. Bowers, that was one tasty chicken.

I agree with Eat Me Daily. Awesome. And one day, I will be cool.