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article imageSome Chicago restaurants now do their own food safety inspections

By Lynn Herrmann     Jan 19, 2012 in Food
Chicago - A new “self-certification” program in Chicago would allow restaurants with no record of food-borne illnesses and retailers selling pre-packaged foods to inspect themselves and then submit reports with the city health department.
The new plan, a two-year pilot program supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, was approved by this week by a budget committee of the City Council.
“If you are a food establishment that has a stellar record, has been doing a great job and has not failed inspections, there’s no reason we can’t work with you to ensure that you are continuing to do that work on your own,” said Dr. Bechara Choucair, the city’s Department of Public Health Commissioner, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Of Chicago’s 15,000 licensed food establishment, about 2,500 would be considered “low-risk” in fulfilling the food health self-certification requirements. This includes grocery marts and gas stations which do not prepare packaged food they sell, as well restaurants which have passed recent health inspections and have not been shut down over food safety issues for three years.
Supporters of the measure state the field inspectors with the city’s health department could then focus on those establishments. Choucair added current city code requires the health department’s 32 field inspectors to conduct inspections at food establishments “at least once every six months, regardless of risk.”
The two-year trial is being hailed as making Chicago an easier place to conduct business. “It allows low-risk food establishments to take a more active role in the health safety of their own establishments and allows city resources to be allocated toward food establishments with a greater risk of causing food borne illness. Both of these will help ensure the health safety of Chicagoans,” Choucair continued.
The Chicago Tribune recently noted one in five Chicago restaurants over the last two years failed inspections, a trend it calls “a common occurrence.”
An online database launched in November by the city, part of its transparency efforts, shows more than a third of Michelin-starred restaurants - a guidebook designation for exceptional restaurants - failed an inspection during the last two years, according to the Tribune.
The new program is scheduled to run until November 2014.
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