TNT Diner

Could a restaurant make you sick? A health department email will let you know

Until now, you’d have to dig deep to find out if a Pierce County restaurant has been closed for health code violations.

That’s because the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department lacked a mechanism for alerting the public to restaurant closures. It also didn’t require a notice or sign of any kind on the restaurant after a closure.

That’s changing.

The Health Department has launched an email alert system that will send subscribers a notification whenever it closes a restaurant for longer than 24 hours because of food safety violations or a handful of other issues.

Additionally, it will post a sign on the door of any restaurant it closes.

Here’s how it works:

▪  Sign up for email alerts at tpchd.org or go to tpchd.org/foodclosures for an active list of closures.

▪  The Health Department will list the most recent closures with closing and reopening dates. The information will remain on the page for seven days after a restaurant reopens.

▪  The restaurants listed are those that are closed for 24 hours or longer because it has not corrected repeated food safety violations or it poses a health risk.

▪  Closures might be related to repeated occurrences of critical violations or other reasons.

Examples from recent months include the Health Department’s unusual step of ordering a six-month closure for Tacoma’s Vien Dong in early May for repeated violations. The restaurant appealed and was allowed to reopen with conditions last month.

In December, the Melting Pot was ordered closed for 24 hours after diners became ill after eating there.

Under the new system, both of those kinds of closures would be reported via email and the website.

▪  Restaurants closed for operating without a valid permit will appear on the closure website.

▪  Not just food safety violations can close a restaurant. A fire, flood, sewage backup, misuse of toxic chemicals or interruption of water or electricity can shutter a restaurant.

▪  A problem with refrigeration can close a restaurant, as was the case with El Super Taco Bus 3 at 904 72nd St. It was closed Tuesday for “lack of refrigeration.” It was the only closure listed on the website at the time.

▪  Restaurants that are closed will have signs posted by the Health Department to alert the public. A food inspector determines where the sign goes.

“Our food inspector would post the sign in a place where customers gain access or order food,” department spokeswoman Edie Jeffers said. “This could be a window near a door, a door, to the side of a food truck window or another conspicuous location.

“The sign would remain posted until we reopen the facility.”

In addition to the alert system, the Health Department has modified its online publishing of health inspection reports for restaurants. The reports now include notes from inspectors and notations about food safety violations, if any are found.

About two years of inspection reports for dining establishments are available online at tpchd.org.

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