Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah
image Tracey Dawson cooks at Overlake Elementary School in 2011. The Tooele County Board of Health approved a website that shows inspection records for food establishments, which will be active in March.

February 4, 2014
Health department announces plan to publish food inspections online

The Tooele County Board of Health has approved the creation of a website that will release the inspection records of food establishments within its jurisdiction.

The site will publish two years’ worth of inspection records for every establishment in the county that serves food to be eaten immediately — not only restaurants and fast food joints, but also school lunchrooms and store delis, said Jeff Coombs, deputy director of the Tooele County Health Department.

The database will allow residents to inspect the track record of any establishment for documented problems with hygiene and food handling.

Because the food inspections database already exists internally, the health department’s current staff should be able to launch the public site at no additional cost to the department, Coombs said.

“The data is available,” he said, “we just have to get it online.”

The health board’s decision to release the inspection records is backed by science, Coombs said. Scientific studies have found that in counties with online food inspection databases, food establishments were less likely to violate regulations related to food handling and hygiene practices.

One such study, a year-long research effort that took place in Salt Lake County, was recently released by the Journal of Environmental Health.

Statistics indicate that one in six Americans will contract foodborne illnesses from improperly handled food each year, so the problem is wide-spread and warrants action, said Coombs.

Additionally, he said the website should make it easier for the public to obtain information about a topic of intense interest. Food inspection records, which are public documents and available by request under the Utah Government Records Access and Management Act, are among the most-requested records kept by the health department.

“This is consumer-driven,” he said. “There has been traditionally a demand for this information.”

The health department hopes to have the new website live by the first week of March. For years the health department has considered the potential benefits of a public food inspections database.

Emma Penrod

Staff Writer at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Emma Penrod is a staff writer for the Tooele Transcript-Bulletin and covers Tooele City government, religion, health, the environment, ethnic issues and public infrastructure. A Tooele native, Penrod graduated from Tooele High School in 2010. She holds an associates degree from Utah State University, and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Brigham Young University. She worked for the newspaper as a high school intern starting in 2008. In 2010 she began working full-time in the newsroom until she left for college later that year. While at BYU, Penrod worked as a writer and editor for a small health magazine in Utah County. She interned with The Riverdale Press, a community newspaper in the Bronx, NY and with the Deseret News. She is also the author of two non-fiction books.

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