editorialHealth department inspection reports
Recently, with the assistance of the county Environmental Health Department, we began listing the latest ratings of local restaurants by the department. As was explained in the first rating report, every food establishment in the county gets inspected at least once every six months. A facility is inspected, and if that inspection scores 70 points or less, it is reinspected within 30 days.
The response of publishing this report has been gratifying with most readers showing support. However not everyone agrees that this public information is necessary.
The owner of one local establishment complained that the report hurt his businesses reputation. Apparently that specific restaurant had scored below the bench mark of 70 points and had been reinspected. Russ Hansen, Director of the Crook County Environmental Health Department reports that the facility had been reinspected and all deficiencies had been corrected.
Hansen and his staff follow state standards and procedures. One policy is not to change the initial score on a reinspection.
Hansen pointed out that the score does not indicate the safety or health risk of eating in a facility. The score is an initial indication of what is observed during the inspection and in all cases the items observed that were the cause of the loss of points have been corrected.
Since the inspections cover a lot of employee practices, a new employee can cause a low score by doing one act that causes a loss of five or more points, but is not indicative of all employees. For example: One of the restaurants recently inspected was given a score of 95. The owner had watched as the inspector checked temperatures in various pots and pans, looked for dust or dirt and generally did all the things one would expect from a drill sergeant type inspection. Ah, the inspector reportedly commented, this is a very clean operation. Okay then, the owner is said to have responded, why did you not give me 100 points? Why knock off five points? Because, the inspector is supposed to have said, while I was inspecting I saw you touch your face with your hand and didn't go wash your hands.
That 95 score will stay with the restaurant for a while because of another policy; the score does not change until the next semi-annual inspection, three to six months later.
Just because one restaurant received 95 points and other 70 points is not necessarily an indication that one is safer or cleaner than another. It is only a snapshot of that facility on the day the inspection was performed.
The results of the inspections, just as information presented in the Law Enforcement column, is public information and is presented as a public service of this newspaper.
While on the subject of the law log
Each morning, the Prineville Police Department faxes the report on the department' activities for the previous day. The policy of the Central Oregonian is to publish that information with only one change; the names of any person under the age of 17 is omitted. This information is all part of the public record. There is no law or regulation that demands that the names of young people be left out, it is the newspaper' policy.
Once in awhile someone, either the newspaper or the police department, will make an error. Most recently the age of a youth was a year off, and the name was included. The mother of this child was angry that her baby was named when, it turned out, he was actually the youngest person in the group that had been cited. Some would argue that the error was that of the youth by being in a position to be cited.
It is the duty of a newspaper to inform. Whether that information involves which restaurant has a continuing history of low inspection scores or the police have made arrests of a neighbor for driving while intoxicated, just like reporting on the weather, the goal is to inform. And just as the weather, it is all public information.
This brings up one other point. The newspaper' policy is not to take names out of the police log. If, for example, our publisher is arrested for some reason, his name will be in the log too. We do not make exceptions.