Pa. restaurant inspection records to go online by end of year

    Want to find out if the restaurant around the corner has a rat problem? Or if the cooks wash their hands?

    By the end of the year, no matter where you’re going out to eat in Pennsylvania, you’ll be able to look it up online.

    Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture food safety director Lydia Johnson said the searchable food inspection report database the state is working on will be one-stop shopping for restaurant-goers statewide. They hope to have it up and running by the end of this year.

    “We would be the central repository,” Johnson said. “That would allow, for the first time, the public to be able to access this information from one central location (online).”

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    Reports from the 40,000 restaurants inspected by the state Department of Agriculture are already online.  Separately, some counties, including Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester and Montgomery counties, post inspections online on their own.

    The new database will combine all those listings along with those not currently on the Internet. In addition to helping diners, Johnson hopes it will also provide a nudge for restaurant owners to keep clean.

    “You certainly don’t want inspection reports that have violations or complaints,” Johnson said. “So the fact that the public has this information should encourage the facilities to do better.”

    In Delaware County, which does not have a county health department, some restaurant inspections are done by state officials and are available on the commonwealth’s website. Some, done by individual municipalities, are on different websites, and some aren’t posted online at all.

    Delaware County director of intercommunity health Maureen Hennessey Herman said having all the reports in one central location will make it easier for residents to do a little digging before dinner.

    “When they are looking to go out for something to eat, they can go online and look at the records and see what the inspection information has brought to bear,” Hennessey Herman said.

    The database will also include cafeterias and food processors.

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