PEORIA — The 100 point restaurant inspection scoring system is no more.
Starting Jan. 1, both the Peoria and Tazewell County health departments will drop the system used for more than 30 years to prepare for changes in the Illinois Food Code, which could be implemented statewide as early as July 1. Under the new inspection system, establishments will be rated according to how many risk factor violations they have — the fewer the better.
Risk factor violations address practices that could lead to foodborne illness. They include time and temperature control for cooking and storing foods, a variety of hygiene practices, and proper food sourcing. Each violation — there are 29 possible — will be noted under the new system. If a violation is repeated on future inspections, it will also be noted.
Inspectors from both Tazewell and Peoria counties like the new system.
“The flaw of the 100 point scoring system is if a place got a 95, people thought they were doing fantastic, but they might have had a critical violation,” said Cary Panier, assistant director of Environmental Health at the Peoria City/County Health Department. “It didn’t give a really good indication of the actual true risk. The newer inspection system will be more risk based. It stresses violations more related to foodborne illness.”
Inspectors will continue checking establishments for less serious issues called good retail practices, but they won’t be counted in the inspection total.
In Tazewell County, inspectors have been training on the new system for months. They’ve also been working with area eating establishments to help managers understand the new inspection system. Feedback from area food managers has been basically positive, said Sarah Malik, environmental health specialist with the Tazewell County Health Department.
“There’s a little confusion with the scoring and totals, but for the most part they are taking it pretty well,” Malik said.
The new food code is more detailed.
“It’s more user friendly,” Malik said. “Basically it spells it out a little better.”
The new code explains not only how to do things, but also the reasons why. It also fosters better communication between inspectors and food managers, Malik said.
“I think it will help show facilities what is going to cause foodborne illnesses, and we can help them to correct it,” she said. “It will be more of a team effort.”
The new scoring system is part of the FDA food code adopted by the state of Illinois in 2016. The date of implementation of the new code, however, is still uncertain. The state is working through proposed amendments to the plan, said Panier. Both the Peoria County and Tazewell County health departments are implementing the new scoring system to avoid confusion if the new code gets implemented this year. In Peoria, the health department will be conducting outreach and education to food establishments and the public throughout 2018 to help people understand the new system, Panier said.
One change in the new code is the specification of a Person in Charge. Eating establishments must have a PIC — someone who knows the right way to do things to prevent foodborne illness — at the establishment at all times.
“The PIC provides active managerial control, so someone is always there to correct the employees,” Malik said.
Also in the new code is a specific plan for the cleanup of vomit and diarrhea. Currently eating establishments have their own way of dealing with these events — the process will now be spelled out in the code.
“The new code specifies the proper concentration of chlorine, and how to protect the employee who has to do the cleanup,” Malik said.
Also being implemented is a requirement for someone at all non-franchise Category 1 establishments to get allergen training. The training is designed to help prevent cross-contamination that could sicken someone allergic to shellfish, for example, even when they don’t consume shellfish. This requirement is not part of the FDA code, but rather a new state law going into effect Jan. 1.
Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.