Double standard on public health
When it comes to making informed choices, it's our view that the more information available the better it is for the public.
Different units of government make different rules, and that's why, starting on Jan. 1, there will be two sets of regulations regarding the posting of health inspection results for restaurants in Champaign-Urbana and those in the county.
In Champaign-Urbana, food establishments will be required to post inspection-result placards regarding compliance with the health code. In Champaign County, there will be no such placards.
The board of the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District has ordered the posting of the green/yellow/red placards while members of the Champaign County Board recently rejected the recommendation of county health board members to do the same thing.
There's no disputing the right of different entities to write different rules. But it's unfortunate, nonetheless, that county board members voted 11-9 to withhold this information from the public.
The county board majority may feel it's helping food-related establishments protect their good reputations. But those good reputations may be undeserved, and, if so, what board members are really doing is hurting consumers who might not make the same choices if they had more information.
Still, half a loaf is better than none at all. The decision by the cities' public health district to require the placards will allow both those inside and outside the city limits to make a judgment about the effect, if any, the placards have.
It's our view that operators of restaurants in Champaign-Urbana will feel compelled to make food safety an even higher priority than it is now and not run the risk of having to post embarrassing information regarding food inspections. If so, that's good for public health, for consumers and for the businesses themselves.
At the same time, operators in the county won't have the same incentives as their counterparts in Champaign-Urbana. Further, they might be perceived by the public as being allowed to operate under less stringent standards and, as a result, be less attractive for consumers.
That's an unfortunate dichotomy, one that will be revealing to watch as it unfolds in January.