DIRTY DINING: Warren County launches searchable online database for inspection reports

Butler County to make electronic switch soon

LEBANON, Ohio -- Warren County residents are now only a click away from finding out how their favorite local restaurant fared during routine county health inspections. 

The Warren County Combined Health District launched an electronic health inspection system this month, allowing users to search an online database of health inspection reports from the nearly 800 food establishments in the county.    

"People used to have to come into our office and ask for a printed out copy of the inspection report," said Duane Stansbury, health commissioner for Warren County. "Now they will be able to see inspections from multiple years to see if facilities are maintaining good inspections. Are they getting better? Getting worse? They will start to notice trends."

The online system , which launched March 3, contains inspection reports from Jan. 1 and beyond. About 300 facilities have been inspected since the start of 2014, and those reports are now online, Stansbury said.

"The inspection reports [online] are just a snapshot of a day in the facility and may not reflect the overall long-term conditions," said Dennis Murray, environmental health director for the county's combined health district. Murray cautioned users to keep that in mind when utilizing the county's new online tool. 

WCPO analysis of restaurant violations from the city of Cincinnati and six local counties did not include Warren or Butler counties, as neither maintained their 2013 records electronically. Murray said Warren County health inspection reports from earlier than Jan. 1 are still available if requested, although the county cannot deliver them online or in a searchable format. 

RELATED: Inspections at Tri-State restaurants show troubling trend + Searchable database  (INSIDER)

Aside from making it more convenient for local residents to search for restaurant violations, Stansbury said the new online system will increase consistency across the state.  

"It'll be more legible to read. Any health department that uses this system will have the same verbiage. We'll put more detailed information in by our sanitarians, which should give the operator a cleaner, easier document to read after we've done the inspection," he said. 

Stansbury said the consistent reports will help to educate restaurants who fail to pass inspections about how to improve. 

"It helps them think through why it's a violation. What did we do wrong? And then make sure it doesn't happen again," he said. "There are a number of facilities that have multiple locations within our counties and in joining counties -- chain restaurants -- so if they are seeing the same thing from across our county and from neighboring counties, they will understand what we're looking for."

The new online inspection system also includes inspection reports for campgrounds and swimming pools in the county.  Murray said the health department has plans to also add other reports to the site by early next year, like inspection reports for tattoo parlors, body piercing facilities, household sewage treatment systems and private water systems. 

Butler County is in the process of converting its restaurant health inspection reports to an online system, too.

Brian Williamson, chief of environmental services at the Butler County Health Department, said he discussed the online conversion with his board last week.

"We're moving in that direction," he said. "What we're asking for is something that's user-friendly for the public to actually find specific restaurants -- a name search."

Williamson said the department has not rolled out a date for their online conversion, but he anticipates the switch should happen within the next few months. 

Butler County inspection reports can now be requested via e-mail or in person, although Williamson said there's no easy way for the department to search among all the reports. 

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