A few days ago, I invited eFoodAlert readers to chime in on the issue Restaurant Inspections: Does Publishing The Results Do Any Good?
Following is the first of the replies I've received so far.
From Suzanne H. in San Diego:
"I’ve never thought too much about the ratings on restaurant doors—some of the signs look grubby enough that I can’t bring myself to eat there anyway. If the ratings signs were dated, I think people might pay more attention.Here in San Diego I’ve had two almost identical experiences at the same Claim Jumper restaurant in Carmel Mountain Ranch, both were several years ago. The first was when I ate a couple of CJ’s ‘sliders’—the mini hamburgers—and was sick (just once) as a result. The second time I had roasted chicken and almost didn’t make it to the restroom before it came right back up. At least my stomach reacted quickly. In neither instance did I have any ‘after-effects’ (thank goodness). Since I seldom have anything wrong with my tummy and can eat almost anything with no problems, those immediate reactions were a clear indication to me that something was not right. After those two incidents I was so anxious to leave that I neglected to report them to the management and didn’t really care for a free meal or coupon for my ‘inconvenience’."
San Diego County maintains a "Scores on Doors" program. According its website, there are approximately 12,000 retail food facilities – including 6,000 restaurants – in the County. More than 27,000 inspections are performed annually, meaning that each retail food facility is inspected, on average, at least twice a year.
San Diego uses an "ABC" grading system to summarize inspection results. An "A" grade represents a score of 90-100, and is considered satisfactory; "B" is 80-89, and represents a need for improvement; "C" (a score of 79 or less) is a failing grade. Violations are noted on the inspection report, and the facility is given a certain amount of time – depending on the nature of the violation – to correct them. An imminent health hazard triggers an immediate closure of the facility.
The county, in addition to requiring that all retail food facilities post their most recent inspection grade prominently near the entry, maintains an on-line searchable database of recent inspection results. The Claim Jumper restaurant on Carmel Mountain Road was inspected three times this year – in January, June and August – and achieved an "A" on each occasion. Its score has been dropping, though, from a perfect 100 in January to a 93 in August. The August report noted an issue with holding temperatures, which is a "major violation."
Consumers who encounter food safety issues, or believe they have contracted food poisoning after patronizing a San Diego County retail food facility can report their problem to the County by telephone. The County does not offer an on-line or email reporting service.
I'll be posting more reader comments in the coming days. If you would like to contribute your thoughts, or describe a restaurant-related food safety experience, please post your comments below, or email them to me directly (click on my Profile to access my email address).