“FOOD POISONING strikes 1 in 6 Americans each year,” reports the CDC. “Web site serves up City Restaurant Inspection Reports” is the title of an article in the Small Business Times August 9, 2007. “…restaurant hygiene grading with public posting of results is an effective intervention for reducing the burden of food borne disease” according to the Journal of Environmental Health March 2005. These are just a few of the recent regional and national headlines on food poisoning.


Food borne illness, and the restaurant contribution to the epidemic, is constantly in the news. In an article “Behind the Scenes at your Local Restaurants” published in JSONLINE January 21, 2009, Ellen Gabler reviewed City of Milwaukee inspection reports and commented on several places where food was served. She noted one inspection and alarming comments “containers of flour infested with moths, meat improperly stored and mold inside soda machines.” In a restaurant inspection database for the City of Milwaukee, at one establishment “workers were reminded not to touch ready to eat food with their bare hands.” At yet another “equipment, walls, ceilings and floors were greasy and dirty in main kitchen.” In the following YOU TUBE video witness some startling health inspections. Even some of the better known national chains thought to be more “upscale” have problems.

The Public Health Departments of larger communities conduct inspections of public eating establishments. The Los Angeles Health Department has published inspections and used a grading system since 1998. The Milwaukee County Health Department publishes inspections but does not use a grading system. The inspections have been recently highlighted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Information is extensive and sometimes technical. Inspections are done comparatively infrequently with some reports over 36 months out of date. “State Lags in Checking Restaurant Cleanliness” reports the JSOnline Sep. 7, 2008. But Community Health Departments can only do so much with limited resources.

Reports provided are not convenient for the consumer and don’t provide a complete timely picture of the dining health of the establishment. Between communities, there is wide variability in reporting, making it impossible for the traveling consumer to benefit from the information. The reports can be disgustingly alarming and the public remains unaware. In the following YOUTUBE video, witness reenactments of actual health inspections. Clearly, to have any substantial impact on reducing food borne illness it will require the consumer to become more involved and proactive in reporting unhealthy environments and activities. Public health departments, restaurants, health care providers and consumers need another tool, a more convenient tool, and a more dynamic tool. So we have introduced DININGGRADES.COM. The Health reports are not dynamic and often miss day to day events. In the following YOUTUBE video witness how handling of something as simple as a lemon wedge in your drink becomes a source of food poisoning. The news and inspection databases tell only part of the story.


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Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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