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Safe at Home Plate 

  State restaurant safety inspections, which haven't been online for public view in six years, became a lot easier to obtain Aug. 8, when the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) launched, the department's new searchable database of public health records. At a Baton Rouge press conference, DHH Secretary Bruce D. Greenstein said the site has two goals: food safety and holding "restaurants and other retail food establishments accountable. It's to keep DHH accountable" as well, he added.

  Website users can enter a parish, town, ZIP code or name of a restaurant and get the state sanitarians' most recent reports. "We have sanitarians who work in every parish, every day around the state," Greenstein said. The site lists some 32,000 licensed food dispensaries, from restaurants, bars and markets to "a service station that's serving boudin balls and fried chicken, or sno-ball stands," Greenstein said. The site also highlights other food safety-related news, including recalls, announcements and tips on safe preparation of school lunches.

  While other states assign restaurants letter grades that must be posted onsite, the Louisiana database is purely "pass/fail," Greenstein said, adding, "Our track record in the state is very good."

  A previous website, launched in 2005, was discontinued because "it wasn't really built with the right database," Greenstein said. "This [information] has always been public record, but hasn't always been easy for the public to acquire." — Allman


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