A Food Safety App for Holiday Diners

​FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                        
December 6, 2016


SAN JOSE –Holiday diners aren’t likely to be thinking about food safety as they dine out in the weeks ahead, but maybe they should. Foodborne illness affects 1 in 6 Americans every year, according to Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths annually.

The potential for tragedy was highlighted recently when three people died and another five people were sickened after a Thanksgiving dinner sponsored by an East Bay church at a local American Legion Hall.

Fortunately, Santa Clara County residents now have a powerful new tool for food safety. The SCCDineOut mobile app brings information from the County's restaurant inspection reports directly to diners' smartphones. An Android version of the app was recently released, complementing the iOS version and the mobile-friendly database on the County's website.

“Most folks think about food safety rarely, if at all,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian. “But maybe they will if they can pull out a smartphone and check the health inspection results of a restaurant they’re headed to, or any place nearby." Simitian, who has spearheaded the County's efforts to make inspection results easily accessible to the dining public noted, "It's easy, it's fast, and it's right there in your pocket whenever you’d need it."

With the SCCDineOut app, users can see the inspection results for any establishment in the County that serves prepared food. These results include not only the 0-100 numerical score, but also the individual violations that inspectors noted, and results for inspections stretching back several years. Users can search by name or location, and the results are color-coded green, yellow, or red to match real-world inspection placards.

The saga of Santa Clara County's food safety app stretches back over 16 years. Efforts to make restaurant inspection reports available to the public began in 2000, when Simitian, during the last year of his first term on the Board, championed a measure requiring those reports be posted online.

"At the time, the inspection results were literally locked in a file cabinet," said Simitian. "The County was collecting this information, and it was nominally public, but nobody had access to it. I wanted to change that."

Simitian's 2000 online posting proposal passed – but when he returned to the County Board in 2013 (after 12 years in Sacramento in the California State Legislature), he found that those posting requirements had never been fully implemented. He wanted to see the effort completed, but technology had changed tremendously in the intervening decade, and he thought it was time for the County to catch up. The result, rolled out over the past two years, is a mobile-friendly online database of food facility inspections, and more recently the SCCDineOut app.

"This information matters, and we wanted to put it into a form that was as accessible as possible for as many as possible," said Simitian. "This helps diners make informed choices about where they eat, and it gives restaurants an incentive to do an even better job at keeping their kitchens clean and safe."

The County's food facility inspections don't just cover restaurants. Any establishment that sells prepared food is included: grocery stores, convenience stores, even school cafeterias. Parents of school-age children can use the mobile app or web tool to see how their kids' lunchrooms are doing.

The County inspection system is designed to ensure that if a restaurant's door is open, the food is safe to eat. If a facility fails inspection, it's closed immediately and isn't allowed to reopen until major violations are fixed and it passes a new inspection. And now, with the County's new app, consumers can learn a lot more about what goes into the numbers that determine pass or fail.

Simitian encourages holiday diners to use the app. “Whether it’s eggnog or egg rolls, the information you need is there in an instant.”

The SCCDineOut app can be downloaded for free directly from the Apple App Store, the Google Play Store, or via the Santa Clara County website at https://cpd.sccgov.org/sccdineout-mobile-app, where a mobile-friendly web version is also available.

Diners should also see an inspection placard prominently displayed at any establishment serving prepared food in Santa Clara County.



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