Challenges of Health Department Inspections: The Tarnished Image

restaurant open sign neon

It has become common place for the media to post failed restaurant inspections. The public seems to be ‘hungry’ for this information with the growth of television shows focusing on such issues. These types of stories can lead to the demise of the tarnished restaurant.

Consider the following case study and the unfortunate results:

A well-known restaurant in a large metropolitan area had a recurring mouse infestation, which had been repeatedly identified by a health inspector. After an incident the inspector stopped the serving and immediately closed the restaurant. The restaurant re-opened after it complied with the violation order, but closed permanently a few weeks later, apparently because after a newspaper posting, the public lost confidence in the restaurant.

A health department restaurant inspection should be objective. That objectivity and report should be made available to the public but it’s important to remember that public disclosure can change a food safety image, as this case study points out. A changing image can change consumer preference, which can lead to the demise of a restaurant. But it doesn’t have to happen if managed correctly.

It is critically important to protect a brand’s food safety image. Dining Grades can help by providing resources.


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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