Inspection reports should be online

The popular Steinhaus restaurant in Marquette, which serves to-die-for German food, violated state food safety standards by not having sanitizing solution test strips handy.

The marvelous Amore Trattoria Italiana restaurant in Comstock Park, north of Grand Rapids, failed to comply with food safety laws because it moved a handwashing sink out of a food prep area during a remodeling. After restoring the sink, it was in compliance with all food handling laws.

Zingerman’s Deli in downtown Ann Arbor had no violations.

Bad Brad’s BBQ in New Baltimore had three violations — potentially serious ones involving food temperatures and chemical storage — during its last Macomb County Health Department inspection in October. All three violations have been corrected. We recommend the BBQ Taco Platter.

We know those things about those restaurants across Michigan because the health departments in Marquette, Kent, Washtenaw and Macomb counties believe it is in the public’s interest to share restaurant inspection reports. They are not alone. Many other county health departments post inspection reports online and freely share them with the public.

St. Clair County doesn’t.

Its response to our request for copies of the restaurants inspection reports from the past year may upset your stomach. We don’t know what the inspection reports will tell us — or you. It may be that every eating establishment in St. Clair County is in perfect compliance.

More likely, we expect the inspection reports to show, as we found with the readily accessible reports above, that most St. Clair County restaurants are mainly spic and span but with a few minor and easily correctable violations.

It will take a while to find out.

The St. Clair County Health Department says it will take 45 days to find and duplicate the past year’s inspection reports. We know the inspections are meant to help food establishments comply with food safety standards and to keep consumers safe. But what does the department do with the reports after they are completed that makes them so difficult and time-consuming to locate?

The department says it will take a solid 24 payroll hours to gather the reports. We hope the agency is better at finding dirty work surfaces and buffet chicken held at the wrong temperature. It would take another week of payroll hours to copy the reports.

We’re not assuming the health department set a $1,686 price tag on our request because it prefers those reports not see the light of day.

Other St. Clair County officers have made strides in providing vital consumer information online. The health department should seek their help.

— Times Herald (Port Huron)

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