New Castle News

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January 7, 2013

Your Dining: Restaurant inspection reports to appear online

PITTSBURGH — By year’s end, diners should be able to go online to check out the cleanliness of every restaurant across Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is working on a system to aggregate thousands of restaurant inspection reports each month from counties and municipalities and post them on its website.

The department itself conducts about 40,000 inspections of restaurants in communities that do not have their own inspection programs. Those reports are already available online.

But about 60,000 other restaurant inspections each year are handled locally, and online access varies from agency to agency. So the agriculture department is aiming to put all of them on the website, too, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Lydia Johnson, director of the agriculture department’s bureau of food safety and laboratory services, said the goal is to have the system up and running within the next year.

Since January 2011, state law has required all health departments in Pennsylvania to submit their monthly inspection reports to the agriculture department. While the law did not mandate online access to the reports, Johnson said the department decided to do so in the interest of transparency.

The agriculture department had hoped to have the projected finished by now but ran into some technical challenges. For example, some local agencies still do their inspection reports on paper.

State officials have developed software for automating the reports and are providing equipment and training to health departments around the state.

(Online: Restaurant inspections performed by state are at www.eatsafepa.com.)

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