The recent outbreak of E. coli infection in connection with contaminated spinach has brought food safety renewed national attention. Now, a new website gives concerned diners another tool to evaluate the safety of their food -- and businesses increased incentive to follow health standards.
Healthinspections.com provides centralized access to health-inspection reports for restaurants, hotels, and other public facilities nationwide.
Greater transparency regarding health-code violations will be good for consumers who wish to stay informed, according to Garrison Enterprises, a Charlotte, N.C.-based provider of data-management software for health departments, which created the site. Yet, business owners should be aware that the site could be a forum for publicity that elevates the consequence of a poor inspection far beyond a fine.
The website allows users to enter the zip code of the establishment in which they are interested. It then provides links to the appropriate health-department website, where the user can read the inspection report.
Currently, not all geographic areas are covered by Healthinspections.com, since not all health departments post restaurant inspections online. However, the database will be continually updated.
"When you consider that Americans spend nearly half of their weekly food budget eating out, it's critical to know what inspectors are finding in restaurant kitchens," Cameron Garrison, CEO of Garrison Enterprises, said in a statement. "We see this website as a vital public service."
Healthinspections.com also offers a summary of recent inspection news stories with headlines such as "NC: Mysterious tamales at a McDonalds" and "West Coast: Mice, Ice Cream, and Movies."
In addition, the site includes instructions on how to interpret an inspection report and a range of multimedia content. Along with videos of violations, such as pork being processed and sold in a residential garage, the site features podcasts of health inspectors telling stories about some of their most horrifying site visits.