In a press release issued on June 4, 2013, the City of Portland’s Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Division announced that food service inspection reports for local restaurants and other food service providers are now available online. Providing the public with easy access to these reports is a part of the city’s continuing effort to improve its environmental health and safety programs. In addition to the inspection results, information on how to interpret the data included in the inspection report is also provided on their website.
“With Portland’s growing reputation as a foodie destination, it is important that tourists and residents alike are able to enjoy dining in establishments that are safe and clean, which is why we want people to be able to check inspection reports and understand what they mean so they can make good choices as to where to dine,” stated Michael Russell, Environmental Health and Safety Program Manager. “We also know that restaurant owners and chefs want to do the right thing and are eager for the guidance we can provide. By working together, we are able to both protect the public’s health and support an important local industry.”
Portland, Maine’s largest city, is the first in the state to post restaurant inspection information online. It is also one of just five municipalities that do their own health inspections; the state inspectors handle the rest. Food service establishments in the state are required to be inspected at least once every two years. However, restaurant’s can be inspected more frequently because of complaints and at the health inspector’s discretion. Health inspectors check for compliance in food handling, food temperature, personal hygiene and vermin control. These inspections provide an opportunity for restaurant management and the inspector to check for foodborne illness risk factors, public health interventions, good retail practices, and to make any necessary corrections.
Portland’s Public Health Division provides an alphabetical list of its sanitary inspections that includes the restaurant’s name, address, inspection dates, and whether it passed of failed, along with a link to the full report. The full reports include license type, owner’s name, contact information, date and time of the inspection, license number and expiration date, purpose of the inspection (regular, follow up to a failed inspection, pre-operational, or complaint), risk category, number of risk factor/intervention violations, number of repeat risk factor/intervention violations, outcome of the inspection (passed, failed, closed, imminent health hazard), foodborne illness risk factors, public health interventions, temperature observations, good retail practices, observations and corrective actions, and inspection notes.
If a restaurant receives more that three critical violations or more that ten non-critical violations, it receives a failing grade and is subject to a follow-up inspection within three weeks. The website also includes answers to frequently asked questions, examples of common violations, as well as information on how to report unsafe food handling practices at a food establishment, becoming ill, and other concerns. The city has also set up Food Service Inspections hotline for restaurant owners and will offer Certified Food Protection Manager classes next month.
Portland’s health inspection reports, along with campaign finance reports, property assessments and tax rolls, ordinances, government job listings, registered sex offenders, arrest logs, and other public records can be easily accessed from the Cumberland County, Maine Free Public Records Directory and from the Maine Cities and Towns Public Records page. The Free Public Records Directory provides thousands of links to public records searches as well as agency contact information for every state and county in the United States. Searches can be made by city and state, zip code, or by type of record.