October 17, 2014

County opposition to placards grows stronger

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The photo illustration shows examples of health inspection compliance posters required to be prominently displayed in food establishments within the Champaign-Urbana city limits. The posters indicate to the public the results of the latest health inspection. The Champaign County Board again struck down the proposal in a 14-5 vote to expand the mandate throughout the county this week.

File Photo

The photo illustration shows examples of health inspection compliance posters required to be prominently displayed in food establishments within the Champaign-Urbana city limits. The posters indicate to the public the results of the latest health inspection. The Champaign County Board again struck down the proposal in a 14-5 vote to expand the mandate throughout the county this week.

Claire Everett/CU-CitizenAccess.org — The Champaign County Board is continuing its opposition to the mandatory posting of health inspection placards for county food establishments outside the cities of Urbana and Champaign.

The most recent vote against mandatory posting was by a much greater margin this week, with 14 members opposing and 5 supporting.

Last November, county board members voted down the same proposal with a 11-9 vote.

Currently, food establishments in the twin cities must post red “closure,” yellow “re-inspection required,” or green “satisfactory” in a visible place based on inspection scores. A restaurant fails if it receives a score of 35 or less and receives a yellow placard. If it receives a zero or lower, it is closed and receives a red placard.

Champaign County Board Member Pattsi Petrie said in an interview that she voted against posting placards because the system has several faults.   (See related article in the News-Gazette) 

She said that inspection scores do not give a good picture of what actually happens at restaurants, as a restaurant with a critical violation could still receive a green placard, while those that have several minor violations could still receive a yellow placard.

“A restaurant could have an egregious fault, yet that fault does not drop the restaurant below the 36 point mark,” Petrie said.

However, Alan Kurtz, chair of the board and a former restaurant owner, voted in favor of the placard system and said the placards ensured customer safety.

Petrie said board members did laud CU-CitizenAccess.org coverage of restaurant inspections because it resulted in the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District “finally putting” inspection reports online.

CU-CitizenAccess.org has posted restaurant inspections for four years after having to submit Freedom of Information requests to the county health department. It continues to post inspections results with easy to read maps and history of inspections.

The new county health Web pages launched about a month ago with little fanfare, is updated daily and allows viewers to look up food establishment inspection reports by name, score, date or zip code.

“It should have been done a long time ago,” Petrie said.

Since the new county Web pages went up, only one restaurant has failed.

Inspectors found live cockroaches in the kitchen of Peking Garden at 206 N. Randolph St. in Champaign on Oct. 6, 2014 and gave the restaurant an adjusted score of 7.

The restaurant had four additional critical violations including gaps at the bottom of its back door and an improperly functioning dish machine.

In addition, four restaurants in the twin cities and one in the county had close calls in October, receiving passing scores in the 36-50 range.

Those establishments included Wendy’s located at 505 N. Cunningham Avenue in Urbana, Tortica’s Grill at 408 E. Green St. in Champaign, Big Grove Tavern at 1 E. Main St. in Champaign, My Thai at 2312 W. Springfield Ave. in Champaign and Billy Bob’s BBQ at 105 E. Broadway Avenue in Ogden.

Jim Roberts, director of environmental health at the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, was not immediately available for comment.