ILLINOIS (IRN) — Consumers and local health departments in Illinois are adjusting to new food inspection guidelines that took effect at the start of the year.
The changes put Illinois in line with the updated food code from the Food and Drug Administration. The new restaurant inspection forms move away from a
scoring method to emphasize risk factor violations and good retail practices.
“Illinois adopted the model FDA inspection report form not only to be more consistent with other states, but also to be consistent throughout Illinois,” said Melaney Arnold with the Illinois Department of Public Health.” “[That’s] why all certified local health departments are required to use the IDPH-approved inspection report form. Additionally, Illinois decided to adopt the form to follow the most up to date science-based guidance for food safety provided by the FDA.”
Local county health officials are reporting no major problems with implementing the new guidelines.
“For any new process that is significantly different like this, there’s a learning curve,” said Tony Dede, environmental health supervisor with the Adams County
Health Department. “There’s a learning curve for inspection staff and for the facilities that are receiving the inspection report.”
Kevin Dixon, assistant director of community health resources with the DuPage County Health Department, said the end result is an improved process.
“The inspection takes a little bit longer than it used to because there’s more involved with it,” Dixon said. “But the additional work we have found to be
helpful. We think it actually provides for a better inspection.”
One significant change that might be noticed by the public is a lack of a numerical score for each inspection.
“The only thing [the public] will see on the inspection report that reflects any type of scoring system is how many risk factor violations did they have,” Dede said.
“And they’ll also see how many repeated risk factor violations they had.”
Dixon says an interview with a person in charge at the restaurant now is part of the process.
“We’re not just walking through the restaurant looking for various instances of compliance or non-compliance,” Dixon said. “There’s now an interview with the
person in charge to find out what their knowledge level is. We’re looking for them to demonstrate the application of the regulation in their day-to-day activities.”
Dixon says DuPage County adopted the food code on its own two years ago and have worked hard to educate restaurants in the area about the new process.
“In some ways, the adoption of the FDA code as the state standard in Illinois has helped with creating consistency in terms of how the inspections are done,” Dixon said. “We have found that really helpful, especially with the national chain restaurants. What that means is more of their facilities are being inspected under the same approach, no matter where they are in the country.”
Meanwhile, in Adams County, the feedback local restaurants receive from the health department is not much different from before.
“Even in the past, while we weren’t implementing the FDA food code directly, the Illinois food code has always been based on the guidance of the FDA food code,” Dede said. “So what the restaurant sees and hears from us, in terms of violations, is pretty consistent. They’re not hearing anything different.”