Cleanliness key to menu
Published: January 18, 2013
Most restaurant diners in Pennsylvania only get part of the story by perusing online restaurant menus promising the glories of culinary invention. But by the end of this year they will be able to find, online, public inspectors’ ratings for the cleanliness of kitchens at tens of thousands of restaurants, statewide.
The state Department of Agriculture conducts about 40,000 kitchen inspections each year, and another 60,000 are done by inspectors for 170 municipal and county governments, including in Scranton.
To ensure that all of those inspectors use the same cleanliness standards, the Legislature passed a law in 2011 requiring local inspectors to report their findings to the state Department of Agriculture.
The law did not require the department to put those inspection reports online, but the department, in a fine act of public service, decided to do so.
After developing proprietary software to provide uniform reports, the department has begun to train local inspectors in its use. A department spokesman told The Associated Press that the system should be available to consumers by the end of this year.
Because the online reporting is not mandated by law, local inspectors do not have to use the department’s software. To reward the department for its striving to inform consumers, lawmakers should amend the law to mandate local inspectors’ use of the department’s software.
Lawmakers also should consider a system used in New York City, where inspectors’ grades prominently are posted at every restaurant.