Restaurant inspection reports: Where to find the "dirt"

By Heather Sullivan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - At NBC12, we use the public restaurant health inspections to write the Restaurant Report each week. It's information that is posted for the public's use on the State Health Department's website. Here is a look at how to find the information you need before you go out to eat and why the reports may need to change.

After restaurants are inspected, the results are posted. You can read which violations a restaurant had and whether they fixed them. But Gary Hagy, Director of the Health Department's Division of Food and Environmental Services, says look at a few inspections, not just one, to get an overall picture, see if violations are fixed or repeated, and watch for red flags, which he says are "temperature control, food being held out of temperature. Employee hygiene issues, not washing their hands, working while they're sick. Those are big ones to me."

You'll find some of the most interesting information in the "comments" section at the bottom of the report. When a restaurant is ordered to come into compliance or risk losing their permit, it's written down there. So we asked the Health Department why that's not highlighted higher up on the page for you to read?

Answered Hagy, "We wanted to be careful at first when they're writing their comments. It's going to be out there in the media."

Hagy says the Department wanted to be careful not to unfairly or prematurely damage a restaurant's reputation. But now he says they're considering making enforcement actions more prominent when they revise the reports next year. Said Hagy, "Can we flag them somehow? And we're looking at ways we can do that in a meaningful way. Again, you're always innocent until proven guilty, so we want to be sure that we don't red flag someone and maybe they shouldn't be."

The Health Department invites you to make suggestions on how they conduct and report restaurant inspections.

You can catch the Restaurant Report every Thursday night at 11 p.m. on NBC12.

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