January 22, 2019

Report Questions Efficacy of Restaurant Inspections in Louisiana

A report filed on November 21, 2012 by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor questions whether restaurant inspections are working to prevent foodborne illness. The report found that the Office of Public Health (OPH) issues permits to some retail food establishments that have uncorrected violations. In addition, the OPH rarely uses formal enforcement actions to address violations, and their current enforcement process does not deter noncompliance. Finally, OPH did not always conduct the required number of inspections, and inspection results are not fully disclosed to the public.

Fancy Restaurant Table Setting

The report states that from fiscal year 2009 to 2011, permits to operate were issued to 13% of establishments that had critical food safety violations and 33% of establishments with non-critical violations that were found during pre-opening inspections. Furthermore, the OPH did not inspect 81% of so-called “high risk” retail food establishments that its risk model recommends.┬áThe U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that health departments consider compliance history as a factor in risk models.

Louisiana used to have a website for restaurant patrons to view inspection results, which can help those in high risk groups choose a restaurant that minimizes their risk of illness. But about 3,14o inspections have not been posted on the website, and the site doesn’t have all inspection results for each restaurant.

The auditors recommends sixteen corrective actions. First, the OPH should not issue permits to restaurants and food establishments with uncorrected violations. Second, OPH should update its risk model using compliance history criteria. Third, that OPH should make sure that high-risk establishments are inspected according to the risk models. Fourth, that required re-inspections are conducted in a timely manner. Fifth, that specific criteria should be used for implementing different enforcement actions.

In addition, streamlining compliance order processes, penalties for repeat violators, re-inspection fees, proper website maintenance, establishment tracking, and formal standardization programs should be implemented. And fees assessed to establishments should be re-assessed, including fees for construction plan reviews and a new Sanitarian data system.

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