Today, Louisiana Department of Health Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein demonstrated the Department's new food safety website, www.eatsafe.la.gov, which features the sanitary inspection reports of the nearly 34,000 Louisiana retail food establishments LDH permits and inspects.
"Louisiana is known for the unique culinary experiences it offers residents and visitors alike," said LDH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein. "To maintain our rightfully-earned reputation of having the best food in the nation, restaurant patrons must have confidence in the sanitary conditions of our food establishments. Our new EatSafe site empowers residents to make informed decisions about where they eat and to become partners with us and our state's restaurants to help prevent food-borne illness. "
While traditional sit-down restaurants and fast food chains are included, restaurants only account for 50 percent of the establishments monitored by LDH's Food Safety Certification Program. LDH is responsible for permitting and inspecting more than 8,800 markets - including meat and seafood markets - 4,700 bars, close to 2,500 daycare and residential facilities and a number of seasonal establishments like snowball stands in the summer and food carts found at festivities across the state.
"We are very enthusiastic about making this important public health information easily accessible for Louisiana's residents and visitors," said Clayton Williams, Assistant Secretary of the Office of Public Health. "This initiative not only demonstrates our commitment to transparency; it is also another buttress to our public health infrastructure, enhancing our ability to protect the health of the public in partnership with the food industry and consumers."
Health inspection reports have always been public record, but prior to the release of this website, residents had to request copies from the parish health unit in their area and then go to the health unit to view them. Full reports will still be available at parish health units, but EatSafe will give users details on violations found at each establishment and corrective actions taken.
Retail food establishments are assigned to one of four categories: routine, re-inspection, pre-opening or complaint; and, inspections are performed between one and four times each year depending on the type of operation. When violations are found during a routine inspection, the establishment is given a time frame for compliance in which a sanitarian will return to perform a re-inspection. Otherwise, inspections are unannounced. The website differentiates the type of inspection, as well as whether the violations found were remedied.
There are two main violation categories, critical and non-critical. Critical violations are those that, if left uncorrected, are more likely to directly contribute to food contamination and/or illness. Non-Critical violations are those that are determined not to be directly related to the cause of food borne illness, but if left uncorrected, could become critical.
"Every day, in every parish, our sanitarians are dedicated to making sure restaurants and other food establishments are safe for our residents and visitors," Secretary Greenstein said. "EatSafe.la.gov gives us another tool in our tool box to keep food-borne illness at bay. We will continue to improve and update the site based on the feedback we receive because food safety is everyone's business."
The website will be updated daily, but LDH officials are reminding residents that it's important to remember inspections are a "snapshot" in time. Therefore, they are not always reflective of the day-to-day operations and overall condition of an establishment.
LDH has requested that website visitors share their thoughts about the new website.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.