Costly rechecks: Restaurants should pay for extra inspections

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Restaurants and other food purveyors that don’t comply quickly with cleanup orders from the Allegheny County Health Department could face expensive fees for their failure in the future. That’s only fair.

The change in fees for follow-up health inspections are part of the Allegheny County Health Department’s proposed restaurant grading plan. Most of the attention has been focused, correctly, on the key feature of the proposal, letter grades at restaurant doors based on health inspections. Equally necessary are the proposed new charges for recalcitrant restaurants.

Under the plan, as now, regular health inspections are conducted by the county without charge. If flaws are found, inspectors return for a recheck after the time the owners are allotted to make improvements. Fees would kick in after those first two encounters if the health department proposal is approved by the county’s board of health and then by county council.

That would mean repeat offenders and restaurants that fail to promptly correct deficiencies would be on the hook for the cost of the inspections. The fees are high enough to get the owners’ attention — $150 for a second reinspection and $300 for each subsequent one that’s needed.

That’s what already is being charged by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, which handles restaurant inspections in some parts of the state. Frankly, it’s surprising that recidivists aren't already forced to pay for these services.

It’s bad enough that businesses can put consumers at risk by failing to keep food at safe temperatures, maintain bug- and rodent-free premises and comply with other safety standards. They also have been eating up taxpayer dollars for rechecks made necessary through their own inattentiveness.

This part of the health department plan is one more good reason the health board and council should approve it.

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