Monday, October 10, 2011

NYC shares restaurant inspection information online

New York City last year introduced an online data utility that provides great detail about health inspections of restaurants. The application cleverly combines Google Maps with data from health inspector reports.

It has always been the case that health inspectors could shut down restaurants that failed to meet a certain threshold for adequate hygiene.  The most distinctive thing about this "report card" approach is that it provides consumers with greater information about inspections that found some problems, but not enough problems to shut down the restaurant.  In economic terms, this approach remedies an "information asymmetry," in which the consumer lacks some key information about food production practices. 

Perhaps the most interesting thing to do on this site is to visit "advanced search" and then browse the worst-scoring restaurants that were not shut down.  For example, the restaurant "La Trattoria" in the screen shot below was not closed.  Here are the recorded violations:

Violations recorded in the following area (s) and a Notice of Violation issued at the reinspection conducted on 09/02/2011.
Tip! "Critical" violations are displayed in red.
Violation points: 79

Sanitary Violations
1) Hot food item not held at or above 140º F.
2) Appropriately scaled metal stem-type thermometer or thermocouple not provided or used to evaluate temperatures of potentially hazardous foods during cooking, cooling, reheating and holding.
3) Evidence of mice or live mice present in facility's food and/or non-food areas.
4) Hand washing facility not provided in or near food preparation area and toilet room. Hot and cold running water at adequate pressure to enable cleanliness of employees not provided at facility. Soap and an acceptable hand-drying device not provided.
5) Toilet facility not provided for employees or for patrons when required.
6) Food not protected from potential source of contamination during storage, preparation, transportation, display or service.
7) Food contact surface not properly washed, rinsed and sanitized after each use and following any activity when contamination may have occurred.
8) Facility not vermin proof. Harborage or conditions conducive to attracting vermin to the premises and/or allowing vermin to exist.
9) Accurate thermometer not provided in refrigerated or hot holding equipment.
New York's effort is the latest in a series of similar innovations around the country.  In the past, we described similar but lower-tech health inspection report cards in Los Angeles.


Delora said...

Virginia has published their health inspections online for the past decade or so. While not fancy or interfacing with Google maps, if you know the county and restaurant name, you can get accurate reports.

I have definitely stopped my patronage of a few local places after reading their inspection reports.

johnseomaven said...

If you are an owner of a restaurant or a café, you should abide necessary laws and regulations in food industry. One of the requirements for a food premise is to be a certified food-safe environment. In accordance with this, employees like food handlers, chefs or cooks, or manager should acquire a Food Hygiene Certification.

Dan said...

If you want to see inspection results on your iPhone/iPad/iTouch, check out Grade Pending in the App Store. Free, and works even when you don't have Internet access (in the subway, for example).

Unknown said...

I stumbled upon and thought I should share it because it brings restaurant inspections easy to find on the website. Also, it works with Seamless, Zagat, OpenTable, and more!