Health Dis. Won’t Meet January Goal for Posting Restaurant Inspections Online
--- Reported by Dan Petrella, CU Citizen Access
Despite promises over the past four years to post restaurant inspection reports online, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District will miss another self-imposed deadline to do so.
Because of ongoing "computer glitches," district officials said they would fail to post the restaurant inspection reports online in January. They set that goal earlier this year in an interview with CU-CitizenAccess.org for a story on restaurants that failed inspections and after promising since 2008 to make the information more easily available to the dining public.
Meanwhile, inspectors gave seven restaurants failing marks last month. Several of those restaurants had failed previous inspections.
The new goal is for the restaurant inspection website to be up and running sometime this spring, said Julie Pryde, the district's public health administrator. North Carolina-based Garrison Enterprises is the site building for the district.
"I know that's not very definite, but that's just about how definite they're being with us," Pryde said.
The district's inspectors currently fill out their reports in digital form, and the idea is for the reports to be accessible and searchable online as soon they're completed, she said. But there are technical problems that need to be ironed out to make that possible, she added.
"Every time we move to something electronic, I expect that we're going to have glitches," Pryde said.
The health district currently doesn't publicize the results of the 1,300 inspections in conducts each year in any way. Other area health departments publish scores online or require eating establishments to post a letter grade. CU-CitizenAccess.org has been posting since September the district's reports on restaurants that failed inspections.
Food-service facilities, including restaurants, cafeterias and grocery stores, are routinely inspected because unsanitary conditions can lead to food-borne illnesses such as salmonella, E. coli and Hepatitis A. Symptoms of food-borne illnesses - which can resemble the intestinal flu - include abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and dehydration, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Earlier this year, CU-CitizenAccess reported that one in 10 restaurants in the county had failed an inspection during a recent four-year period.
Afterward, the Champaign County Board of Health discussed the possibility of requiring restaurants to post scores or complete inspection reports. But the board decided to wait to see what recommendations come out of a national food-safety conference that will be held in Indianapolis in April.
Meanwhile, area restaurants continue to fail inspections without the public's knowledge.
As a public service, CU-CitizenAccess obtains inspection reports on a monthly basis through the Illinois Freedom of Information Act and adds restaurants that have failed to an interactive map.
In November, Woori Jib, a Korean restaurant on the University of Illinois campus, failed for the third time this year, according to inspection records. The restaurant, 710 S. Sixth St., has failed a total of five times in the past three years.
During its Nov. 2 inspection, Woori Jib scored 22 out of 100, according to a health district report. Inspectors found "tofu, ground beef, cooked and cut eggs and imitation crab" outside of refrigerators at potentially unsafe temperatures, among other violations.
Last month, two other Champaign restaurants failed for the second time this year: Firehaus, 708 S. Sixth St., and Cravings, 603 S. Wright St. The failures were the fourth for each restaurant since 2009.
In all, seven restaurants failed in November, according to a review inspection records. Restaurants fail inspections when they score below 36 on a 100-point scale. (See the complete list of November failures below.)
Firehaus and Chinatown Buffet, 713 Marketview Drive, Champaign, both had their health permits temporarily suspended after receiving negative scores during their November inspections.
Inspectors can suspend a restaurant's permit if it receives a negative score, if it fails a mandatory reinspection after failing a routine inspection, or if they find violations that pose an immediate public-health risk.
Among the violations found at Chinatown Buffet on Nov. 1 were sushi on the buffet at 20 degrees above the proper temperature, moldy lemons in a reach-in cooler, and mouse droppings in a dry-storage room. The restaurant was allowed to reopen two days later after correcting the problems and scoring 86 on its reinspection.
Firehaus had its permit suspended Nov. 3 for problems including bathroom sinks without hot water, "chicken wings being cooled on counters at room temperature," and flies throughout the restaurant, according to an inspection report. Its permit was reinstated the next day after the issues were addressed.
For more reporting, and to look at their interactive map, visit cu-citizenaccess.org