QUESTION: Wondering why Tuolumne County does not post health department inspections and ratings where we the public can easily access the results? I lived in Nevada years ago, and the health inspection report of restaurants were published in the newspaper every week. Along with the grades they received, they also ran a list of the issues they found that knocked off points on their rating, giving the customers the opportunity to judge for themselves as to the importance of an unacceptable grade, and make their own decision whether or not to eat there. In Los Angeles County, every restaurant must post in their front window the grade they received. I would love to have something similar here in Tuolumne County so that we don’t have to wonder how safe we are when dining out.
ANSWER: Many California counties have searchable databases of inspections, making it easy for patrons to see not only a grade but also what the establishment was dinged for. They are presented in a variety of ways, such as Los Angeles County, which shows a list of inspections for each day. On Thursday, there were reports of inspections that had been done Wednesday.
Others like Placer and El Dorado counties are searchable. Kern County has a big map that shows all the grades. Click on the grade and it shows precisely what inspectors found. (Not always good.)
It will come as no surprise to people who like to look stuff up online, Tuolumne County has none of that.
Here’s what Rob Kostlivy, director of Tuolumne County Environmental Health, had to say about that.
“Currently, Tuolumne County EH is trying to bridge the gap between paper inspections and digital formats. Until that process is ferreted out, we will still utilize paper inspections. ”
The state requires restaurants — and anyone serving food to the public — have their most recent inspection record handy and available to anyone who wants to see it. In Tuolumne County, they don’t have to post the report.
In Sacramento County, restaurants have a barcode affixed to their windows that patrons with smartphones can scan through a county app to see what they’re in for if they eat there.
The Union Democrat asked how it could obtain the reports for publication. Kostlivy suggested going to restaurants and ask to see the report. Or, he said, we can make an appointment with his department to look at the files. If we want copies we’ll have to pay.
He didn’t say this, but 10 cents a page is the typical county fee.
Another way we can get the files, he said, is to ask them to make copies for us.
“Since we don’t have this in an existing electronic format, fees for service would most likely apply to conduct this task,” he said. “I would anticipate that this would take 16.7 working days to complete or 133 hours, and our hourly rate is $107.
We would just go up there and take some notes.
But the challenge for publishing them is there is no overall score, unlike other counties. Each county is responsible for deciding how they want the inspections to be reported.
Once we saw the form, we could understand the 16 working days estimate. It is complicated.
We’ll investigate further and see what we can do about publishing the data.