Understanding restaurant inspection reports

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Reading a restaurant health inspection report can be confusing for the average person.

“It’s really hard for people to understand what it is we do. So when you read our inspection you might not understand it,” said Eric Pessell, Director of Environmental Health for the Kent County Health Department.

Gone are the days of reading a restaurant inspection report and seeing the words ‘critical’ or ‘non-critical’ violations. Those terms have been replaced by words like ‘priority’, ‘priority foundation’ and ‘core’. “Priority violation are critical violations that we don’t want to see,” Pessell said.Health Inspection Docs JSI2

Pessell explained:

  • Priority violations are those that directly lead to food-borne illness.
  • Priority Foundation violations means whatever the violation is, it has the potential to lead to a food-borne illness.
  • Core violations are not violations that directly lead to an illness outbreak, but it is in the early stages.

In the past 12 months, the Wild Chef Steakhouse in Holland had six priority violations. On Friday the Ottawa County Health Department said in an online survey they did, they identified potentially hundreds of people that got sick from eating at the restaurant.

“If they have 4, 5, 6, 7 priority violations, that’s a place that we’re going to be working with. Because you don’t want to see that,” Pessell said.

Anyone can access Allegan, Barry, Calhoun, Kalamazoo, Kent or Muskegon County restaurant inspection reports online at http://swordsolutions.com/Inspections

Those reports detail exactly what investigators found and how the restaurant responded.

What you won’t find is a pass or fail, or a grade for the restaurant. However, for the second year, Kent County has published a list of Food Service Award Winners. The list is made up of restaurants that haven’t received any violations in the past year. Winners are posted online and get a sticker to put in their front window.

“If you see a food service award winner, that is an A place,” Pessell said.

In the end it’s the consumers decision on where they would like to eat. Sometimes your gut is the best thing to rely on.

“Use your own instinct. If you walk in and the place just doesn’t look right and you go into the bathroom and it’s a mess…it might be a tell for ya.”


***Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story stated that restaurant reports from Ottawa County could be found online, however, the county does not currently post their reports. The story has since been corrected. 

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