Inspections of Hawaii Food Establishments Increasing

Posted on Feb 4, 2015 in Ola Lokahi

Scratch Restaurant first placardThe Hawaii Department of Health continues to make significant progress in conducting inspections of restaurants and other food service establishments since the launch of a placard program in July 2014. The program evaluates food establishments and posts color placards to indicate if the inspection revealed any foodborne illness risk factor violations.

On Oahu alone, there are 6,000 food establishments and Department of Health inspectors had completed 2,150 inspections of these establishments by the end of the 2014.

How the Placard Program Works
A food establishment receives a green placard if it has one food illness risk-factor violation or less that can be corrected or mitigated on-site prior to the inspector leaving the establishment. Department of Health inspectors post yellow placards when there are two or more food illness risk factor violations even if all violations are corrected on site.

Two or more risk factor violations indicate that the food establishment is losing active managerial control of proper food safety issues and requires a follow-up inspection to make sure that all risk factor violations are corrected and stay corrected.

A red placard (Order to Close) is only issued when risk factor violations rise to the level of being an imminent health hazard or there is an active and ongoing food illness outbreak occurring and the food establishment refuses to voluntarily close.  Voluntary closure still results in posting a yellow placard.

The process has provided positive motivation for food establishments to make any necessary corrections in a timely manner so that they can receive a green placard posted at their establishment. Prior to the program, inspectors often had to make extensive follow-up visits to ensure a restaurant made the necessary corrections to comply with safe food-handling procedures. The placard program, modeled after other cities, saves time and allows inspectors to be more efficient.

More Inspectors

Thanks to increased funding for additional inspector positions to implement the placard program, Inspections statewide are expected to accelerate. A total of eight new inspections have been funded and the Department of Health is currently hiring or training these additional employees.

Increased Transparency
The placard program has raised the level of transparency for the public. Consumers can readily know whether a restaurant or food establishment complies with safe handling procedures. The Department of Health is also in the process of issuing an RFQ to purchase a web-based system that will be accessible for the public to review inspection results online.