Louisiana health officials plan online reports on restaurants

Saturday, March 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) _ The St. Bernard Parish restaurant that may be linked to a recent salmonella outbreak was cited twice for health violations by state health officials, once in 1999 and once in 2000.

State health officials are accelerating plans to make violation reports more accessible because of the possible connection between the 30 reported cases of salmonella and Rocky and Carlo's restaurant in Chalmette.

Louisiana's chief public health officer said the state is planning to require restaurants to post some indication of how they did on their last inspection, but it is also preparing to make that information available on the Internet.

``People do have a right to know and it would help the industry pay attention to certain details,'' Louisiana Public Health Officer Jimmy Guidry said. ``One way you raise the mark is by making everything open.''

Guidry hopes to have a Web site up and new policies in place within the year.

Department of Health and Hospitals spokesman Bob Johannessen said Rocky and Carlo's record of repeated, sometimes serious, health violations suggests that Louisiana needs to find a way to make that information more accessible to the public.

``This is a restaurant that has been indicative of why we need to provide the public with information about the sanitary conditions within restaurants,'' he said.

Rocky and Carlo's was cited in October 1999 for storing food at inadequate temperatures and not properly cleaning cutting boards. It was cited for the same violations eight months later.

The health report on Rocky and Carlo's was available to consumers _ if they knew to drive to an office park in Chalmette, request the file and read an inspector's handwritten notes.

Salmonella may have contributed to the death of an elderly woman in St. Bernard Parish. Several of the other salmonella cases were traced to Rocky and Carlo's.

State health officials have not officially linked the problem to Rocky and Carlo's, but the restaurant released a statement Thursday saying that it believes the tainted food came from a pan of stuffed bell peppers.

The Louisiana Restaurant Association opposes posting information about health violations on the Internet, primarily because it provides only a ``snapshot'' of the restaurant's health condition at the time of the inspection.

``The inspection only identifies problems and practices that are actually seen during the inspection,'' said Tom Weatherly, a spokesman for the Louisiana Restaurant Association. ``Those practices ... may not be indicative of running the whole restaurant all the time.''