New Chicago Health Department Website Helps Diners Check on Favorite Restaurants - KMSP-TV

New Chicago Health Department Website Helps Diners Check on Favorite Restaurants

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Whether you're out for pizza, seafood, hot dogs or a fine meal, the Chicago Department of Public Health is supposed to make sure the places you like to go for a bite to eat don't present a health hazard.

The health department is making it easier for the savvy diner to checkout their favorite eateries, to see if they are keeping their kitchens safe.

"We wanted to enhance what already existed on line, we wanted to make it more user friendly, expand the information that's out there and really make it available for residents to look up restaurant inspections," Public Health Commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair said.

During a recent round of inspections, the Burger King in the food court at the Thompson Center was cited for sanitation problems including live cockroaches. The manager's explanation:

"Honestly I didn't notice anything until it was brought to my attention," Matt Rooney said.

The Pizza Nova at 26th and Central Park also failed a recent inspection, being cited for rodent dropping in an outside storage garage and cockroaches around the pizza ovens.

Manager Etelvina Quintana said most of the problems have been corrected. She showed us the storage garage, which was clean and had rat poison traps set outside. She also walked us through the kitchen area pointing out the problem spots, which all appeared to be clean.

Who was to blame for the failed inspection?

"All of us, all the employees, not just one person,” she said. “It’s all the employees because everybody has their own responsibility.”

Quintana said she has cracked down on her employees and hired some new people.

It was from the health department's upgraded website that FOX Chicago News uncovered the details of the recent inspections. That site now provides a list of all the restaurant inspections from the last year.

"Most of the restaurants do a really good job. We've done so far over twelve thousand or so inspections and we only had to close around 112 or so,” Commissioner Choucair said. “That's less than one percent of the establishments that we've inspected."

The Seashell Restaurant in the South Shore neighborhood was another place cited in a recent inspection, but the manger was quick to point out the re-inspection notice posted on the wall that showed the restaurant had already taken care of the problems, less than a week later.

Manager Tariq Ashkar said it's a good idea for the city to post detailed inspections.

"It's good because you have to know where you're eating,” he said. “So if restaurants aren't doing their job to keep the store clean I mean, you have to do what you have to do."

But not everybody restaurant does what it has to do.

The In and Out Fast Food stand on Diversey just west of the Kennedy Expressway, dogged by problems uncovered during its most recent inspection, closed.

Each year the city inspects 15,000 food establishments. Last year 4,000 checks were prompted by complaints. Other establishments are inspected as part of routine schedules.

Of the restaurants FOX Chicago News visited, none had been closed. They had only been cited for less serious violations.

At the Burger King, the manager pointed out that they too had been re-inspected and found to be in compliance.

"It was a problem, and I hope we have it all corrected," Rooney said, "if not we'll stay on top of it until it doesn't occur again."

That is the whole goal of the inspections and the enhanced health department website - everyone benefits by the increased accountability and transparency.

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