Audit finds Louisiana is lacking in restaurant oversight - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

Audit finds Louisiana is lacking in restaurant oversight

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New Orleans, La. -- Every year, an estimated 28,000 people in Louisiana dine out and take in a nasty illness. That's according to the state epidemiologist.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals' Office of Public Health is in charge of reducing the risk of foodborne illness.  But according to a legislative audit, it hasn't been doing enough.

Heading out for a meal away from home can be a treat and many visit their favorite eateries without giving much thought to a state inspection. While staying informed may be wise, it's the state's job to keep an eye on restaurants to ensure they're serving safely.

A legislative audit found the Office of Public Health, from fiscal year 2009 to 2011, issued permits to establishments with uncorrected violations, rarely used formal enforcement action, failed to conduct the required inspections and failed to fully disclose inspections to the public.

From inspections to permitting, DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein says the process is in the midst of a transformation.

"We started in February making changes -- we've completely reorganized the entire process within the Office of Public Health," Greenstein said.  "Today our process is far more transparent. It's applied more equally across the state and our process is getting better and easier to understand."

Inspections are now easier for the public to access. "Now, for the first time in Louisiana history, you can go online and see the results of your most favorite or least favorite restaurant and how they did in their last three inspections," said Greenstein.

EatSafe.la.gov is the site. A stop there could be a smart one in making an informed dining decision.

Greenstein says the finding that Office of Public Health "did not always conduct the required inspections" is not accurate in many cases.  He says inspection frequency is determined on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the level of risk and an establishment's compliance history.

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