10 June 2012

Options out for scores on doors

| johnboy
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Katy Gallagher has the happy news that KPMG have completed a no doubt arduous examination of restaurant regulation around the world.

At the end of that process we get a Regulatory Impact Statement on proposals for getting “scores on doors” of restaurants so the public can be informed about health risks, and one hopes so that restaurants can get competitive about their hygiene.

With a mandatory scheme considered high cost we think we can see which way the wind is blowing.

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We are in the situation we’re in — and that includes HPS — precisely because of the emphasis on the soft options such as ‘education’, ‘training’ and ‘prevention’. These only work up to a point. We are talking about businesses, remember — so it’s about the bottom line, and so many businesses will get away with what they can get away with (yeah, trust me on this one). No one is saying that education, training and prevention aren’t happening or won’t continue to happen — they are just not enough. Let’s put it this way: would you favour the same approach for the motor vehicle industry? Do you believe that it’s fair and acceptable — and generally a good thing in terms of companies lifting their game — for potential customers to have access to car safety ratings???

while i fully understand that they are a vested interest, the clubs’ response to the proposed policy (see today’s CT) makes sense. if a venue meets standards, it should be open for business. if it fails to meet standards it should be closed. it seems fairly straightforward to me.

i’m not certain that the gov’t’s approach of treating restaurants as the “enemy” is the most effective. politically they may be scoring some points with the populace but the end goal is to have an effective approach that improves food safety without killing off small businesses. i like how they blithely dismiss education and training as a possible approach on the grounds that it will not on its own deliver the objectives… yet it seems to me that education and training coupled with strict enforcement would have a stronger impact than a scoring system. prevention is better than punishment in my view, and the scores on doors without any training or education seems like a pretty blunt instrument designed to drive non-compliant restaurants out of business after they screw up rather than help them to not screw up in the first place. of course recidivist offenders should be closed down, but there seems to be a real lack of clarity and an inconsistent application of standards…

this seems to me like yet another bandwagon policy with no real long-term vision behind it.

The scores on doors push is a bit of a smoke screen. The Auditor General’s office caned these blokes a while back and those findings show health protection should get its house in order first before emabrking on any grand schemes.

Figures showing an increase in improvement notices and closures being issued fits nicely with that agency (or rather its management) trying to show an improvement in response post auditor general’s report.

What was health protection doing before the auditor general came knocking? It seems suddenly there was an epidemic of non-compliant businesses? Smells off …

An element of butt covering me thinks.

Jesus wept. Like restaurant owners don’t already have enough to deal with without yet more ham-fisted regulation. This is the kind of thing that sends restaurants out of business.

It creates a culture of fear in the dining public, so how well a place performed on a “cleanliness test” becomes the sole arbiter of whether to eat there. By that rationale well all be eating at sterilized Maccas. Meanwhile, some bad luck in a good place (like silo) will get you blacklisted.

Your own kitchen is almost certainly dirtier than at least 90% of canberras restaurants.

More in Monday’s Canberra Times, including a reaction from ClubsACT and a good editorial: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/opinion/editorial/eateries-should-embrace-exposure-20120610-204gt.html

LegalNut, I entirely agree that a robust and effective mandatory system should be implemented. I am deeply suspicious, however, about the inflated costs that are presented in the report. There are certainly costs associated with a program up and running — from developing the best possible inspection form, to ensuring consistency in inspections, to getting the public database right (there are hundreds of examples see, eg: http://florida-restaurants.findthedata.org/d/a/Broward and http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/rii/index.shtml) — but, if the thing works as intended, costs should decrease as compliance increases and health inspectors would spend less time on food inspections and more time on other issues. I also have no doubt that the community supports such a program, although it is disappointing that the Australian Consumers Assn (CHOICE) dropped its early campaign on this issue and no one else has really pushed for it until the Canberra Times decided to put it on the front page. ACT Health, by being more pro-active, could have avoided the pressure that it’s now under.

ACT Tourism have repented rather riskily and feature the “redlisted” Silo in today’s interstate “Visit Canberra” supplement …

While I agree with some of what Dacquiri says, it is worth noting that the KPMG report makes it clear that a mandatory scheme for all registered food businesses is the preferred option when compared against the other three proposed options (all more limited in scope) and the status quo.

To me that is a good outcome and while I prefer the Toronto style traffic light system to the star ratings, it isn’t a bad thing.

Frankly, I think there is sufficient desire within government to make this happen and I think the community broadly supports a “Scores on Doors” type system, so I’m quite hopefully that a robust and effective system will emerge.

Sorry guys, but the KPMG document is far from an ‘arduous examination of restaurant regulation around the world.’ In fact, it only seems to focus on the locations that a couple of HPS managers visited and wrote their own report on. The KPMG regulatory impact statement doesn’t really convey the fact that these programs have been in existence for more than 10 years and are commonplace throughout the USA and increasingly in other countries, including NZ. They vary in terms of how the scores or ratings are presented (letters, numbers, stars, smiley faces, etc), how much info is put online (just the basic outcome, key features of the last inspection, or the inspection report itself), whether the business is allowed to post a response to critical findings, and how often re-inspections occur and ratings may be changed.
Even in its cost-benefit analysis, where you would think that KPMG would do something marginally impressive, they provide questionable info. For example, a mandatory scheme should result in improved compliance rates because all of a sudden these things will make a difference in terms of what customers know about what goes on in the kitchen. Two things should therefore happen which impact on food inspections: transformation of proprietor attitudes & practices should translate into a (a) need for fewer inspections and quicker ones — hence, cost savings (some premises currently get 5 or more re-inspections because proprietors keep dragging things out because, well, why not?); and (b) significant reduction in foodborne illness (which also results in a lot of follow-up work for inspectors and other HPS staff) – hence, cost savings to the community (much more than the tiny % they calculate, given that about 60% of food poisonings are due to food purchased outside of the home. Yet KPMG’s analysis doesn’t seem to reflect these things.
All in all, the KPMG document — with its over-inflated costs — reads exactly like the sort of document produced for a government agency whose view (at least the view of management) is: ‘We reallyreally don’t want to do this, but if you make us do it, it’s going to cost you a b!oody fortune.’ And agencies get away with this stuff because nobody asks the relevant questions.

Better scores on doors than sicks on exits.

BimboGeek said :

Is it because it rhymes? What better basis could there be for an entirely new system of administration than a snappy catch phrase?

I once worked in an office where the Emergency procedures were listed on a sheet of paper using the first letter of the word Emergency for each line. It made me feel very safe. Especially the clip art.

BimboGeek said :

Is it because it rhymes? What better basis could there be for an entirely new system of administration than a snappy catch phrase?

Perhaps it could be brought in some other industries and ACT govenment programs.

Scores on Bores

Public Art?
Scores on Eyesores

Sex Industry?
Scores on Whores

Lake Burleigh Griffin?
Scores on Foreshores

Scores on Corps

I’m sure macca’s will get almost perfect scores in most places.

Is it because it rhymes? What better basis could there be for an entirely new system of administration than a snappy catch phrase?

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