Champaign County Board members may revisit the issue of mandating a color-coded food service inspection program in areas outside of Champaign-Urbana.
CHAMPAIGN — Champaign County Board members may revisit the issue of mandating a color-coded food service inspection program in areas outside of Champaign-Urbana.
Last November, the county board voted down, 11-9, a plan mandating that all restaurants, schools, food stores, day cares and other places outside the two cities that serve food be required to display a public health placard of either green (satisfactory compliance), yellow (reinspection required) or red (closed).
The system, which is mandated in Champaign-Urbana, is being done on a voluntary basis outside of the two cities. A recent survey of 170 food service establishments outside of Champaign-Urbana found that 51 percent were voluntarily following the system.
And county board of health members said Tuesday they were heartened by results that showed that establishments that voluntarily complied generally got better inspection scores.
Those that posted their health inspection placards got average scores of 88 versus scores of 74 for those that did not post the placards, said Jim Roberts, the environmental health director for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.
Roberts will present the results of his six-month study to the county board Thursday night.
County board chairman Al Kurtz said he hopes to bring the issue back to the board in September.
"It's pretty astounding to me," said Kurtz, a Champaign Democrat. "I'm going to see, if I can get enough votes, if I can get it back on the agenda again in September. I'll see what the response is from the board on Thursday."
Kurtz said he found it telling that health inspection scores generally were better for those businesses that posted their color-coded placards.
"Those that were voluntarily using the placards had much better scores than those that did not, and it was a significant difference," he said. "For me, it shows that those that want to keep their customers happy and safe are using the placards as a way to show their customers that they're doing just that."
Roberts said establishments in the county that followed the placard program "performed significantly better on all measures of performance and outcome. They had fewer total violations, fewer total number of risk factor violations, fewer repeat violations and higher scores."
Health district Administrator Julie Pryde said she believes the health inspection placard system, which started Jan. 1, is working well.
"I think it came out to be a really useful tool, rather than just slapping up a letter or a smiley face or even a raw score, because between counties, those are meaningless," she said. "i think this is actually a meaningful system."
Stan James, a Rantoul Republican who serves on both the county board and the county board of health, said he also wants another county board vote on requiring the placards.
"There are a couple people on my side of the aisle that have said that they would probably support it this go-around," said James, who was one of only two Republicans to vote in November for a mandatory placard program in the county. "One of my cohorts strongly opposes this. We've had talks and he feels like it's an intrusion. His comment is that whatever government gets into, we seem to mess it up. But I think with these results it will help."
The county board of health has already endorsed the idea, and several board members reiterated that stance Tuesday although no vote was taken.