Restaurants at risk of being shut down will be listed on a new Salt Lake City-County Health Department Web site that will also feature other public health information.
But the Deseret News Web Edition (http://www.desnews.com) remains the only place where the public can search the Utah, Davis and Salt Lake-county history of all food-service inspections for the past several years.Recent changes in inspectors' grading procedures are one reason the county isn't likely to have comprehensive inspection results available at its Web site at (http://www.slchealth.org) in the near future, said Daniel White, director of the department's Bureau of Food Protection.
The Deseret News compiled and published a list last summer of Wasatch Front restaurants with the worst health inspection scores and put three years worth of inspection data in its Web edition. The point was to show that inspection information about restaurants, though public, was typically hard to find. Reader response showed people have an interest in the goings on in their favorite restaurant's kitchen if they can get at the information.
Since then, the Salt Lake City-County Health Department has abandoned its system of grading restaurants on a scale of 100 possible points and is experimenting with new inspection procedures and methods for making inspection information public. The change is taking place while a state committee works to set statewide standards for food inspections.
Instead of using a 44-item grading sheet that weights violations according to their seriousness, variations of which in use around the state, "We're using a sheet we dreamed up all on our own," White said. "I anticipate it will be modified to some degree, maybe extensively, after (the state) work group gets together."
White didn't like using the raw score from the 100-point-based system as an evaluation of a restaurant's overall quality because a score of 90 could indicate 10 so-what, one-point violations for cracked floor tiles and missing light fixture covers or one really serious 10-pointer for contaminated food, rodents or a backed-up sewer.
"All restaurants have problems. You have to have a way of having some interpretation of what the problems are," he said, adding that he favors a system that shies away from a number score and allows characterizations that are more meaningful to the public - like "satisfactory, marginal or unsatisfactory."
In the meantime, inquisitive diners may want to visit the health department's new Web site to see where the real trouble spots are.
Department spokeswoman Jana Carlson-Kettering said the new Web site was prepared for debut at Thursday morning's monthly meeting of the Board of Health.
The Web site, she said, includes much more than restaurant violation information. Fireplace burn conditions, descriptions of food-borne diseases and their symptoms, information about food handler training, business regulations, personal and family health information and biographies of the department's board members are included.
"You can even take a food safety quiz," she said. "There's a wealth of personal and family health information."