It only seems like there’s a new restaurant opening every week in Rapid City. But with all the options for dining out that are available, how do consumers know which restaurants have failed a health inspection by the state Department of Health?

When the Journal inquired about health inspection reports for Rapid City restaurants, it took two weeks for the Health Department to provide copies from their paper-based archives.

Of course, restaurant patrons can’t wait that long for a report, even if they took the time to call or mail a request. Meanwhile, they may choose to eat at a restaurant with a recent health violation and not be aware of it.

Soon, however, restaurant consumers will be able to go online to find the health inspection reports for all of the state’s 3,500 eating establishments, except for Sioux Falls, which has its own health inspection reporting, which is online. By Dec. 31, the Department of Health plans to put restaurant inspection reports on its web site.

Thanks to a $150,000 federal grant, the public will be able to access online the state’s entire restaurant inspection program. People will be able to view restaurant inspections dating back two years. In addition, restaurant owners can renew their licenses online, and inspectors can score restaurants electronically.

The restaurant industry says putting health inspection reports online could be bad for business, and that a poor inspection report is only a snapshot of one day and is not reflective of an establishment’s commitment to public safety.

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Despite the possibility of a negative reaction to a particular restaurant business because of a poor inspection score, giving the public more information about food safety is valuable both to consumers and businesses that get good scores. Restaurant owners should take the transparency of health inspections as a call to be even more vigilant about cleanliness and emphasize the importance of health safety with their employees.

While it took a long time for the state to catch up with the rest of the country on digitizing restaurant inspections, we applaud the Department of Health for making the change.

 

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