Philly ends long waits for restaurant inspection reports

     People walk past the Joy Tsin Lau restaurant in the Chinatown neighborhood of Philadelphia. A 'food source' was the root of a food poisoning outbreak that sickened dozens of restaurant patrons in February. (AP file photo)

    People walk past the Joy Tsin Lau restaurant in the Chinatown neighborhood of Philadelphia. A 'food source' was the root of a food poisoning outbreak that sickened dozens of restaurant patrons in February. (AP file photo)

    Restaurant inspection reports in Philadelphia will no longer be held in secret for 30 days before they’re posted publicly online.

    Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health threw out the longstanding nondisclosure period this week, saying it wasn’t “consistent with the Nutter administration’s open-data policy.”

    The 30-day waiting period was intended to allow restaurants time to appeal inspection reports before they were made public.

    Mark Zecca, a former lawyer for the city’s legal department, said there was never any requirement for the non-disclosure period written into city code.

    “The immediate publication of the reports is a good step forward,” Zecca said. “However, what would be better would be for Philadelphia to start closing restaurants that impair the public health and require them to make an immediate correction of those conditions.”

    After website changes that are expected to take about a month, the health department said it hopes to publish restaurant inspection reports online one to three days after they are completed.

    The policy change was prompted by a Philly.com investigation into a likely norovirus outbreak at a Chinatown restaurant in February.

    David Haase was one of many sickened at that restaurant, Joy Tsin Lau, after a banquet for lawyers and law students held there.

    “I think it’s great that there can be some positive coming out of that experience, not just for me but for the other 100 people who were sickened,” Haase said. “I never want to feel like that again, quite honestly, and I will certainly be someone who will be checking inspection reports.”

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