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All metro counties post health inspections in one form or another online, though Fulton County’s is so out of date as to be completely useless.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)?