California has a health inspection system that puts a large letter on the window of every place that sells food. It's a grade for cleanliness. An "A" is the best. A "B" might work for a hole-in-the-wall. But they're rare in my brief experience, and you're going to need some special cuisine to lure Mrs. HowChow inside. Below that, I think my former Angeleno would cross the street to avoid a place rated "C" -- if they can stay open at all.
I was thinking about this letter system because we passed through Los Angeles on Monday, and I had just posted about Hunan Manor. It's a Columbia institution, but Channel 2 reports that it also has a history of health code violations listing mice and roaches. On the one hand, I don't write a free blog to smack around local businesses. But on the other, people know about these violations, and they probably should know more.
A local guy Fred Tancordo has been pushing the Howard County Health Department to pursue and publicize violations. Tancordo, a retired USDA inspector, has been writing up problems that he sees at places like the Lotte supermarket in Ellicott City. He wants the county to be more aggressive and to share more information. You can search your favorite restaurants on the Howard County Heath Department's Web site, but I agree with Tancordo that the site offers little useful information. The list of establishments closed this year still says "Coming Soon," and I couldn't figure how to see the inspection reports. The county seems to list the places that it inspected in the past 30 days, but I can't see the actual results.
Do you think this stuff matters? Why doesn't Howard County want us to know their findings? Is there some reason not to assume that, in this day and age, it takes conscious effort to have such a skeletal Web site? Anyone know how to get the information?