The Portsmouth City Health Department receives calls on a regular basis from people wanting to know where they can eat, and, of course, Health Department personnel would never recommend, nor not recommend a restaurant, but now they can tell anyone who wants to know about the cleanliness of a restaurant or any place that sells food, to check their website.
“Starting Monday, May 2, we’re going to be posting all our food service inspections on our city website,” Andy Gedeon of the Portsmouth City Health Department said. “It’s not to pick on anybody or try to put anybody out of business. It’s just an effort to be more clear and more open to the public.”
With that service available online, the public will now be able to draw their own conclusions by reading the inspection reports.
“We’re not going to tweak or change any of the inspections,” Gedeon said. “Simply, anything we give to the operator, we’re going to upload it to the computer. We don’t make any changes or anything from the original inspection that the operator receives.”
Gedeon said inspections of food service facilities are not new. They have been doing them all along, it will just be the first time that the inspections have been posted on their website, and, any inspections that are done before May 2, will not appear on the website, only those after May 2.
“Our goal is to educate the operators to show them if there are any violations and show them what the implications are if they are not correcting them, and basically tell them what effects they could have if it is not corrected,” Gedeon said. “It would be to educate them as to what the Code says and what their responsibilities are as an operator. It’s not our goal to write anybody up or put them out of business. It’s to educate them and protect the health of the community.”
One of the strengths of the City Health Department is the Health Board.
“They’re extremely supportive and that helps quite a bit, their being supportive and that helps us as far as putting them online,” Gedeon said.
The categories range from a restaurant to a gas station – from Class-1 that serves basically pre-packaged items to a Class-4, full-blown restaurant that overheats products.
“That includes any of your Speedways, any of your BP gas stations, and also any McDonald’s, Wendy’s, your hospital cafeteria,” Gedeon said. “Basically anything that sells food to the public is licensed through us and is expected at least twice a year.”
Gedeon said checking the inspection reports is easy
“It’s the city website – portsmouth.oh.org,” Gedeon said. “At the top you’ll see the heading that says – Health. Simply click on that and the items will appear on the right side of your screen and down towards the bottom it will say – ‘Food Service Inspections,’ you click on that. We’re going to post those as soon as we can, May 2.”
According to Food Service News, local public health departments regularly inspect businesses serving food to ensure restaurants and other food retail outlets are following safe food handling procedures. Local laws regulate how frequently these inspections take place, and what specific items the inspectors look for, but, in general, environmental health inspectors check that safeguards are in place to protect food from contamination by food handlers, cross-contamination, and contamination from other sources in the restaurant.
“Some examples include ensuring employees regularly wash their hands in a sink equipped with soap, hot water and paper towels; utensils and surfaces that contact raw meat are not used to prepare ready-to-eat foods; and that rodents and other pests are not present,” Food Service News reported.
The reports generated by these inspections can be ordered from your local health department, or many local health departments are now making the reports of these inspectors available online so consumers can make educated choices on where to eat.