The best way to avoid health violations being posted on a Web page is not to commit them.
The Utah Restaurant Association believes its member restaurants are being improperly punished for easily corrected health violations. That punishment includes the name of the restaurant being posted on the Salt Lake City-County Health Department Web page. The association is asking for a moratorium on use of the Web page until clear policy can be set.Could the objections be more transparent? Obviously, the association is more concerned with protecting its members than with pro-tect-ing the public.
The policy already in operation is fine. Restaurant inspections always have been a matter of public record, available at the environmental health office, 1954 E. Fort Union Blvd. Modern technology has made those public records easily accessible. People who want to dine out aren't likely to drive across town and search inspection files first. But they might log onto a Web page that lists "critical violations" committed by restaurants since March 5.
Welcome to the '90s, Restaurant Association. An informed public is a protected public.
The Restaurant Association claims the health department closes restaurants for minor violations. When those violations are posted on the Web, "the restaurant is tried, convicted and closed . . . It's an abuse of police authority, which is not what an inspection was meant to be."
The health department refutes the association's claims, saying it never closes restaurants for trivial reasons.
The Health Department's program is not unique. Tennessee and North Carolina are other states where such information is available and the federal Food and Drug Administration regularly posts notices of violations on its Web site.
The Deseret News pioneered this effort locally, publishing inspection results on its Web page last year along with a story about inspections. The posting proved to be enormously popular among readers.
Fewer than 10 restaurant enforcements have been posted on the Health Department's Web page, and they are removed within seven days if the violations are cleared.
Obviously, the vast majority of restaurants are doing what is necessary to comply with health regulations. The solution is not to quit posting the identity of those restaurants that violate the health code. It is for restaurants to make sure they're in compliance in the first place.
Food violations are a serious matter, one that can affect people's health. The public has a right to know if there is any chance of becoming ill because of unsanitary conditions.