It seems like everyone is rating restaurants online these days, from food bloggers to social media junkies. Now, Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) has joined the conversation too, though it’s not concerned with how a dish tasted or if the waiter was polite.
The state has a new website at EatSafe.la.gov that gives the public access to detailed health inspections of restaurants and food service outlets of all stripes, from the most expensive steakhouses to poor boy shops to day-care centers and nursing homes.
DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein said the site is intended to improve food safety and to hold restaurants accountable for meeting state health requirements.
“They have a better management tool for their own company,” he said of restaurateurs. “They get the answers for the test before final (inspections) come around.
Our goal is not to find deficiencies. Our goal is for food safety. We’d like to see as many restaurants as possible not have any violations because they’re all performing at a high level.”
While other states issue letter grades to restaurants based on their inspections, Louisiana uses a “pass/fail” model and its reports detail violations along with corrective actions that have been taken or are pending.
“It’s better just to give the public the facts rather than work with subjective scores,” said Tenney Sibley, Louisiana’s chief sanitarian. “The public is smart enough to read it and understand it.”
Sibley said every establishment will have violations but, in almost all cases, they will be noncritical and can be fixed before an inspector leaves the premises.
“Any establishment can have a good day or a bad day, and (the report) is only a snapshot,” she said.
The department is now fine-tuning the site with feedback from restaurant owners and the general public, Greenstein said. A revised version of the site is scheduled to launch in November.
The state offered similar information online starting in 2005, but this earlier site proved dysfunctional and was soon discontinued. Restaurant inspection reports have always been public record, but Greenstein says they weren’t so readily accessible.
“They weren’t easy to find, and that might make the process take a few hours, a few days,” he said.