DHH uses new fee to overhaul food inspections
BATON ROUGE - It may seem obvious, but Mestizo owner Jim Urdiales knows food safety is paramount.
"People are making judgements on your restaurant from start to finish, whether it's your parking lots, your restrooms," said Urdiales. "Most people don't even get to see the kitchen, but you want the perception to be there that everything is being handled correctly."
That perception is getting $50 more expensive. The new permit fee is the result of a 2009-2011 legislative audit that prompted the Department of Health and Hospitals to rearrange resources and staff.
Last year at this time, DHH had gone through 23 percent of its statewide inspections. This year, they're at 95 percent and expect to reach all permitted establishments by the end of September.
The fee may seem nominal, but it funds newer, more accessible technology for sanitarians and will create a new position responsible for educating restaurants and making sure inspections are consistent.
"We want to make sure that every restaurant is getting the same inspection, and we want to make sure people are getting good information when they access our web site to look at the inspection reports," said J.T. Lane, DHH's assistant secretary for public health.
The new fee is expected to reel in about $1.5 million annually. To see how your favorite restaurant fared in its latest inspection, click here.