September 18, 2014

Champaign-Urbana Public Health District makes health inspection reports available online

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The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District now allows site visitors to view restaurant inspection reports online. According to director of environmental health Jim Roberts, this new online feature went live on Monday, September 15, 2014.

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The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District now allows site visitors to view restaurant inspection reports online. According to director of environmental health Jim Roberts, this new online feature went live on Monday, September 15, 2014.

By Emma Weissmann/For CU-CitizenAccess.org — After five years of trying to get restaurant inspection reports on their Web site, public health officials finally succeeded this month.

The site — http://c-uphd.org/foodinspections.html — now delivers a wealth of information on the inspections, including the inspection history and scores for more than 1,000 food establishments.

The health department opened the Web site earlier this month, but did not announce it until Thursday.

The reports can be found on the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District‘s Environmental Health section, under “Programs and Services.” A user can click “Search Inspections” and search for an establishment under a variety of categories, including its name, adjusted score range and risk categories, among others.

Jim Roberts, director of environmental health for the district, said at a public health district board meeting on Monday that he sent a letter on Sept. 5 to 1,147 food establishments both in the district and in the county, telling them that the website would be “coming soon.”

“Since then, they’ve had time to look at the website, and there’s been 275 hits since this morning,” he said at the meeting.

Making inspection reports public has been a long road for the department. Five years ago a citizen would have to file a Freedom of Information request to see an inspection of a food establishment. Because of that CU-CitizenAccess.org began filing periodic requests for all the restaurants that failed and publishing stories on that information. In 2011, CU-CitizenAccess.org began publishing the actual inspection reports along with map of restaurants that failed and their history failures.

At the same, the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District board began discussing the best ways to publicize the results of restaurant inspections as other counties and cities do. Last year, the health department  began posting a monthly list of all inspected food facilities and the current status, saying if an establishment needed to be reinspected – an indication it had failed its inspection. This January a new ordinance went into effect, requiring food establishments in Champaign and Urbana to post placards that had the results of their inspections. However, establishments in the county were not included in the ordinance.

Board of Health member Al Kurtz also said Monday he, as chairman of the Champaign County Board, has decided to “resurrect our county vote” on mandatory restaurant health compliance placards, thus requiring food establishments in the county to place color-coded placards in a visible area of the restaurant.

“It will be on the next agenda for the committee as a whole under ‘policy,’” Kurtz said. “I’m having some really positive responses from those who voted ‘no’ the last time. I think we’ll have a good chance of passing.”