Thanks to mobile devices, it’s incredibly easy to find a place to eat, and fairly simple to learn what people think about it. Peeking inside the kitchen door? That’s another story.
Not any more.
“What the Health,” a free mobile app that links to health inspection reports of all Louisiana restaurants, went online Jan. 10. Created by Chris Peoples and Jake Van Dyke, of Modern Appsolutions of Augusta, Georgia, it assigns numerical scores and letter grades based on health inspections done by the Department of Health and Hospitals, provides links to the DHH reports themselves and helps diners find the restaurants.
Or avoid them, as the case may be.
The reports aren’t always, ahem, appetizing, even when written in the language of DHH inspectors:
Food contact surfaces and utensils are not clean to sight and touch.
Food is not stored in a clean, covered container.
Ready to eat, potentially hazardous food prepared on premises and held for more than 24 hours is not date marked.
Raw animal food is not separated from ready to eat food, or is placed, stored or displayed above ready to eat food.
Fortunately, most of the restaurants get good scores, although anything less than 100 means the inspectors found something that wasn’t right. The letter grades (A, B, C and U, meaning unacceptable) and numerical scores are not provided by DHH, but derived by Modern Appsolutions from the reports by applying standards from other states, Peoples said.
“The critical violations we count as six points apiece,” Peoples said. “We didn’t want to be too strict on them, and a basic violation is usually just one point.”
Louisiana is one of seven states and the District of Columbia where the app provides the latest health inspection reports. Peoples and Van Dyke began with Georgia in September. The app updates with new reports every week, and uses the phone’s GPS to keep the closest restaurants at the top of the page. Users also can search for restaurants by name or city or both. The app also allows users to get maps and directions for each restaurant, and to send the grade and make comments on Facebook and Twitter.
The iPhone app has been downloaded 10,000 times, Peoples said, and has received good feedback from Android phone users.
“All good reviews for the most part,” he said. “I’m sure there are some perturbed restaurant owners out there. What can you do?”
It’s hard to say which is the lowest-scoring Baton Rouge restaurant. The app’s default mode is the closest 100 restaurants. Peoples said he’s seen a couple of Washington, D.C., restaurants score in the high 30s.
“I was looking at scores and going, ‘Are we being too strict on these people?’” Peoples said. “Then, we actually look at their violations, and when you go down the list you don’t want to eat there. It’s basically eating off the toilet seat at that point.”
App links for Apple or Android devices can be found at Louisianahealthscores.com.