County opposition to placards grows stronger

Claire Everett/ — 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.

Health inspections temporarily close three restaurants

Claire Everett/ — Raw sewage in the kitchen preparation area closed down the Aroma Curry House in Champaign in August for two days. Health inspectors also shut down Mirabelle Fine Pastries in Urbana in August and closed Golden Harbor restaurant in September because of critical violations including improper temperatures for food. The three restaurants were the only ones that failed their inspections in the past two months. However, five restaurants had close calls, passing inspections with a score of 36, just one point away from failing. Food establishments are scored on a 100-point scale and fail with an adjusted score below 36.

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

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

The site — — 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.

County set to debate whether posting placards will harm restaurants

By Claire Everett/ — Whether a restaurant in Champaign County should have to tell customers if it failed its health inspection is still up for debate. As of January, food establishments in the cities of Champaign and Urbana were required to post colored placards that signified whether they passed their inspections. A green placard means it passed, yellow that it failed and must be re-inspected, and red that its inspection was so bad it was closed. However, the County Board initially excluded other food establishments in the county from the new ordinance because of concerns that the placards would hurt profits at smaller, rural establishments. But the board will take up the issue again next week at its Sept.

Mold in ice machine, flies in drain among dozens of violations in area restaurants

By Claire Everett/ — Meat leaking blood into cases of beer, ice machines with mold and flies in drains  were among the critical violations public health inspectors found in city and county restaurants and grocery stores over the past three months. Champaign County health department inspectors failed 13 businesses and closed one of them briefly. In total, inspectors cited the businesses for more than 110 critical violations. In addition,  inspectors found three food businesses were operating without licenses. Restaurants, food markets and other businesses are scored on a 100-point scale and fail with any adjusted score below 36.  Points are deducted for critical and non-critical violations to get a score.

Safe at Home Part 3: On the Border

By Christine Herman/For — “Anne” and “Kate” are licensed home birth providers in Wisconsin but considered criminals in Illinois. They say home birth would be safer in Illinois if the government licensed certified professional midwives like them by helping people distinguish between trained and untrained midwives and reducing the number of unassisted home births. But opponents, who believe hospitals are the safest place for birth, say they will continue to oppose legislation for licensing them. This story was part of Christine Herman’s journalism master’s project at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2014. 

Visit to see more of Herman’s project. 

Listen to the third in a 3 part series

Safe at Home Part 2: Going it Alone

By Christine Herman/For — When Cheryl Gioja went into labor, her husband Joshua got down on his knees to “catch the baby” in the living room of their Illinois home. What he did was not a crime. But if a midwife had been there, she would have been breaking the law. Roughly 800 babies in Illinois are born at home each year. Without access to licensed providers, families resort to hiring “underground” midwives, who may or may not have adequate training.

Restaurant Inspections: Map, Graphs & Stories

For the past five years, Champaign Urbana Public Health District officials have discussed ways to best publicize restaurant inspections. In September, they began doing so. Health inspection reports of restaurants and food facilities are available by request from the health department. Last year, the health department also began posting a monthly list of all inspected food facilities and the current status. In 2011, began posting full inspection reports of all restaurants that failed routine health inspections since 2008.

A draft version of a reinspection notice. Public health officials are drafting ordinances that would require food establishments to post a color-coded placard that indicates the results of each health inspection. Yellow means the food establishment failed its health inspection with an adjusted score below 36 and but can remain open pending a reinspection within 30 days.

Trial period over – yellow placards could be coming to a restaurant near you

By Claire Everett/ — Between January and May, 32 restaurants in Champaign-Urbana failed health inspections. Diners still had no easy way of knowing if a restaurant failed – until last week. Despite the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District’s new requirement in January that restaurants post yellow placards if they failed their inspections, the district decided to allow a six-month grace period. That meant even restaurants that failed were able to make corrections during the inspection and post a green placard indicating they passed. In a few cases, restaurants failed so badly they shut down and had to post a red placard.