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Finding restaurant health inspection reports online

Courtesy of Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness

Courtesy of Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness

Once a week I get an email from the DeKalb County Board of Health with a list of the restaurants that failed their most recent health inspections. PDFs of that week’s unsatisfactory reports — usually no more than 4 or 5 — are attached, and they sometimes make for queasy reading. Failing restaurants have to clean up their acts for the follow-up report, or they risk being shut down.

More than occasionally, the affected restaurants are ones that I’ve visited, so I appreciate reading the reports. I’m less concerned if, say, the violations concern pots in the hand-washing sink or poorly labeled cleaning supplies than if they mention rodent infestation or foods stored at unsafe temperatures.

If a restaurant does fail its health inspection, I will not write about it or recommend it until it passes the subsequent inspection within the next couple of weeks.

All metro counties post health inspections in one form or another online, though Fulton County’s is so out of date as to be completely useless. When you click on the link on the Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness website to download the latest health inspection scores, you end up with a 328-page PDF of scores for the January 2009-October 2009 period.

Now the good news.

DeKalb County Board of Health has the most useful format: a searchable database. You can enter the name of the restaurant and quickly pull up the grade and an abbreviated list of violations. Click through if you want to read the full report.

The East Atlanta Metro Health District also keeps an online database for restaurants in Gwinnett, Rockdale and Newton counties. You can search by restaurant name and pull up the most recent scores. Click through for the PDFs of the reports.

Cobb & Douglas Public Health (covering restaurants in those two counties) offers only an alphabetical list of restaurants with the current and previous scores. However, there is a search function, so if you want to check the score before visiting a restaurant, then it has some limited use. The problem is, you don’t know what the violations entail.

Elizabeth Lee, the great food news reporter who used to write for the AJC, has compiled a great list of these and other local and national health inspection scores on her blog, LizCooks. You can find that list here.

I plan to steal the idea and link to the health inspection scores on my blog soon enough. But first you should check out LizCooks.

Just out of curiosity, does anyone look at health inspection scores before visiting a restaurant? Would you be more likely to if they were made readily available (I’m talkin’ to you, Fulton County)?

18 comments Add your comment

Stephanie

January 14th, 2010
9:50 am

Honestly, I can’t say I have ever paid attention to a health score. Call me lucky but I have never gotten sick from restaurants I eat at and I tend to eat at a lot of the whole-in-the-wall/sketchy places. I love trying new places too.

reservoirDAWG

January 14th, 2010
11:28 am

I will now. I went to a Dunwoody deli yesterday, ordered and then saw they had an 82. That’s weak.

Kate

January 14th, 2010
11:35 am

I occasionally check scores, more often for hole-in-the-wall sorts of places. Some of the most run down looking places turn out to have consistently good scores. But some are pretty bad, including ones you would not necessarily expect.

I find the history of the scores helpful as well as current. Some places show a pattern. Serious problems on an unscheduled inspection, followed by a temporary fix to get the score up a week later at the scheduled re-inspection, and then serious problems again at the next unscheduled inspection. That tells me the management doesn’t care unless an inspector is about to show up. In addition to the potential health risk, I don’t feel any need to spend dining dollars at a place like that. There’s far too many well-run places to support instead.

If the ability to check scores online were more widely publicized and used, I wonder if restaurants would feel more pressure to keep their scores up. That would be a good thing.

reservoirDAWG

January 14th, 2010
2:55 pm

John, I thought they changed the regulations and restaraunts were going to have to put their grade on the door. Is this not the case?

L

January 14th, 2010
3:02 pm

Thank you so much for this information. The inspection reports are the FIRST thing my husband and I look for (and look at ) prior to eating at a restaurant. Having the ability to look at the reports online prior to visiting a restaurant is very helpful. We will look at the reports online from now on.

Leslie Cohen

January 14th, 2010
6:47 pm

I’ve worked as a restaurant manager for 30 years:
When you walk into your favorite eating establishment look around the lobby. You should find a legal sized document with a large hand written number in a box at the top right hand corner. That form is from The Department of Health and is required to be posted where it can easily be seen by everyone; public and staff alike. Often it is in the bar; frequently in the lobby.

A perfect score is 100. If the score is under 90, there are serious deficiencies. Read the form; it will list what’s wrong. If you can not easily find that form or no one from the restaurant can point it out, or it’s not posted at all, turn around and walk out.
The Department of Health shows up to inspect restaurants without notice on an irregular basis. You can see them once a month or once a week or 2 days in a row. There are dozens of standards that have to be met that assure your health and your safety; they also assure the health and safety of everyone who works there. A good restaurant, expensive or not, works very hard on a daily basis to earn and maintain a high, hopefully perfect, score. A good restaurant, expensive or not, is very proud of their high, or their perfect, score and will post it in a very obvious place. Look for that form. Use it as a standard when you go out to eat.

Sugarfoot

January 14th, 2010
10:38 pm

Oh, yes. I will not patronize any restaurant with a score lower than 90. And I do not return anywhere that has not had several inspections in a row higher than 90 after one below. Most restaurants have to pay for a re-inspection after a low score, and most make 100. That does not mean anything if they are not consistent. Read a few, and you will simply be disgusted. I really started checking them after I got sick eating at a place or two. You will really be surprised when you look at the low scores at some of the establishments that have been highly-rated for food in the AJC!

E

January 14th, 2010
10:47 pm

Sometimes we look, sometimes we dont.

Looks like my lunch plans just changed for tomorrow after looking up my favorite QUOC HUONG. Sigh.

Ann

January 15th, 2010
7:22 am

My brother is a senior health inspector in another state, and he has horror stories. I would love to have an easily searchable database, with details.

Duk Yun Phon

January 15th, 2010
2:01 pm

We not bad place we fix and you come back OK?

Vicki

January 18th, 2010
1:17 pm

Oh dear: one of my very favorite Decatur restaurants got a 78: that is awful!!!!
And is it very high end.
And it isn’t Watershed.

Will

January 18th, 2010
2:57 pm

Went to the Lobster House seafood buffet on Haynes Bridge near 400 on Thursday Jan 14th and saw a 100 score. I always look for the inspection score. It was good so I went again today and saw it was 74. I wanted to check online, but Fulton County does not have the scores posted. It is ridiculous that they don’t have a way to see up to date scores online. I always use the score as a factor on whether I will eat there.

alan

January 20th, 2010
3:35 pm

I wonder if they really do their job. I reported a place in Cobb county o the county health dept. because used toilet paper is put into a trash can by the toilet. I believe it is unhealthy and smells at times. The peson I spoke to laugheds gently and informed me it was because of cultural differences it is not put into the toilet bowl to be flushed. It was never inspected to my knowledge as the trash can filled with used toilet paper is still there. I noticed it in another restaurant recently too. I would be happy to name both places but what I really want is for Cobb County to force these places to clean up. I don’t have to smell others feces or fear the spread of disease.

Amanda

January 28th, 2010
5:57 pm

John:

As a fulton county resident it drives me CRAZY to crave a meal, convince the rest of the family they also want the same cuisine, drive to the restaurant, walk into the restaurant only to be assaulted by a low score. I am already a ‘picky’ diner so a low score sends me running! I would LOVE to be able to easily access current scores on our many restaurants throughout our communtiy.

Jennifer

February 10th, 2010
1:50 pm

Health grades are important to me. I would definitely like for them to be available more readily for Fulton County

Marty Peeler, Atlanta

March 22nd, 2010
1:53 pm

I would be very interested in seeing a restaurant’s health score online before eating there. Recently a friend and I had dinner at a Fulton County restaurant, and the next day he became ill. He suspects it might have been something he ate.

JamieK

April 19th, 2010
1:10 pm

There is a really cool iphone app that gives health inspection reports for restaurants all across the country including the counties here in Georgia! It is really easy to use and informative! It is a nice way to get the reports in the moment as you are picking out where to eat!

D Hayes

July 2nd, 2010
9:03 pm

Please send me health ratings and updates for DeKalb Restaurants

Thanks