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Kanawha restaurant ratings to go online Feb. 7

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County restaurant patrons can access online inspection reports for eateries beginning Feb. 7, county health officials say.

The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department plans to put in place a color-coded restaurant rating system countywide on Feb. 1. The results of those inspections will be posted to the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department's website beginning a week later, said KCHD Sanitation Supervisor Nasandra Wright.

The inspection reports and ratings for each food establishment will be posted according to their city or township in Kanawha County, Wright said.

Health Department officials are required to inspect each food establishment at least twice a year. Ratings for each restaurant will be available at www.kchdwv.org as they are completed, Wright said.

The department is also developing a mobile application for the inspections. The app should be up and running by summer, Wright said.

The department has been testing the rating system with a pilot program for the past six months. Restaurants in South Charleston and Corridor G have been part of the pilot.

During a meeting of the health board's food committee Tuesday afternoon, the committee recommended that the health board approve the rating system for the entire county.

Committee member and County Engineer John Luoni recommended changing one aspect of the rating system under the pilot program.

Luoni explained that under the pilot program, if one business is cited for a large number of violations but corrects them before the inspector leaves, that business could receive an excellent rating. Luoni questioned whether it's accurate to compare that restaurant with another that had few if any violations during the health inspector's visit.

Under the rating system as it was during the pilot program, both eateries could potentially receive the same high marks.

"I just thought it was important that if a restaurant has 20 critical [violations] and gets them all corrected, I still don't think they should get the same rating [as a restaurant] that only has one or two," Luoni said.

Wright suggested that restaurants with few or no violations to begin with get a gold star on their inspection reports. Restaurants that collect a certain number of gold stars in a given year could be eligible to receive an award of excellence at an annual meeting, Wright suggested.

Health officials will write a policy relating to the gold star system that health board members will consider at their meeting on Thursday, KCHD Executive Director Dr. Rahul Gupta said. The health board also has the final say about whether to implement the rating system, he said.

Restaurant owners have generally embraced the idea of the rating system, Wright said. One owner said the system would motivate people to eat at restaurants with high ratings, according to Wright.

Of the restaurants that were involved in the pilot program, 63.3 percent received excellent ratings, 29 percent received good ratings and 7.7 percent had fair ratings, Wright said.

Health Department sanitarians have been through intensive training over the past six weeks to ensure that they are giving consistent inspections to restaurants, Wright said.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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