Local restaurant inspection results should be more accessible, grand jury says

dsneed@thetribunenews.comJune 10, 2014 

A screenshot of SLO County's online restaurant inspection database.

San Luis Obispo County’s Health Agency should do a better job of making the results of its restaurant food safety inspections available to the public, the San Luis Obispo County civil grand jury has concluded.

In a report released Tuesday, the grand jury said the agency meets the minimum requirements of state law but should do more to make inspection results easily accessible to the dining public, including developing a more user-friendly website and requiring that results be posted onsite.

“The San Luis Obispo County Health Agency could, and should, go beyond what is required by devising and implementing an efficient system that is easily recognizable and accessible to the public,” the grand jury concluded. “More importantly, a usable system should be created that includes a visible placard in all county restaurants and a website to inform the public of their food safety.”

Restaurants and other food-serving facilities, including grocery stores and markets, are inspected at least once a year and evaluated on 54 safety criteria. Under the rules, a restaurant is required to make the results of its inspection available to the public but the exact method is not specified.

The results are also available on the county’s website at www.slocounty.ca.gov/health/publichealth/ehs/services/food/RestInspSearch.htm. But the grand jury said the website is only searchable by precisely spelling the restaurant’s name, and the results cannot be sorted by local area or numerical inspection rating.

“The grand jury found the website is not user-friendly,” the report concluded. “It includes not only restaurants but hundreds of other food-related facilities inspected by the Health Agency.”

Curt Batson, county environmental health director, said he has seen the report but is not ready to respond. “I’ve just barely started the process,” he said.

The grand jury report said the agency acknowledges that better website programs are available, but buying them could result in increased inspection fees. Grand jury recommendations are not binding.

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