EDITORIAL: About our health codes story

03/24/2011 5:52 AM |

Times/Review Newsgroup’s editorial department didn’t take lightly the decision to review health reports from restaurants and other eateries from Orient to Mount Sinai — about 500 in all that are subject to regular inspections — and publish our findings in stories in The Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review newspapers and websites, as well as on Northshoresun.com. Many of these businesses are owned and operated by friends and neighbors who not only work in but also live in our communities.

During the reporting process, as we reached out to restaurant owners, we continued to hear what we considered to be a fair question: Why would a local news organization do a story that could harm local businesses?

From the moment we set out to do these stories, our intent was never to harm the very businesses that help form the backbone of our local economies. But it is, and always has been, our mission to print articles that are compelling and informing to our readers. We believe our readership is interested in learning about heath code violations at restaurants where they eat. Many readers, like the reporters and editors who worked on these stories, likely had not known such health reports were regularly published online.

But please keep in mind, the stories we have written provide only a snapshot of what has gone on in the restaurants as of late. The health department’s online list is constantly changing as new inspection reports are posted and old ones are expunged. An inspector may catch great restaurants on a bad day, and not-so-tidy ones on a good day.

We also found in our reporting that public health reports should not be taken as gospel.

For example, one of the published reports indicated a Riverhead restaurant was “in litigation” with the health department over alleged violations, which would mean the county has not been able to compel the establishment to conform to standards, either through training or repeat inspections. But that was posted in error and the report has since been corrected online. In another case, a Miller Place coffee shop’s listed violations came from an inspection report done during its prior ownership. In still another case, a Southold pizzeria’s inspection shouldn’t have been posted at all. The county has since removed that report from its website.

We would urge all potential patrons to call restaurant’s owners with any concerns, as many of the business owners we spoke to had sound explanations for why violations had occurred.

Despite flaws in the health department’s online system, this editorial staff and most restaurateurs interviewed agree the policy of publicly posting inspection reports, especially from repeat offenders, is an effective tool in keeping all kitchens in Suffolk County clean and preventing food-borne illnesses.

Holding restaurants to the highest standards will only serve to strengthen our local economy.



6 Comment


    In a random double blind unscientific study of two residential kitchens
    50% were found to be in VIOLATION

    No taxpayer money and no food was wasted in this study!

  • Random AND unscientific AND residential? What is the point of this comment?

  • It is called political satire (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_satire)

    Many of these VIOLATIONS appear to be insignificant technicalities.

    FOR EXAMPLE: >> Lemon slices were found openly displayed at the patron self-service tea area in the cafe.

    We need to be safe, but do we need to be sterile?

    The Suffolk Times did the right thing publishing this news story. But, why not include a link to the report?

    About the Report:

    Search the inspection records:

  • By the same token, one could ask:

    “Why would a local business be lax about safe food-handling when poor practices could harm local customers?”

    A couple restaurants that we frequent had violations, and others did not. None of the violations noted would stop me from eating in those places, but I have a right to know, and the Times is doing its job, and a public service, in running stories like this.

  • I would like to start off by saying that the Times Review had poor judgment when deciding to print the article by Vera Chinese. It wasn’t about the topic of restaurants having violations, but the decision to allow only SOME of the establishment’s names to be printed. Of all the restaurants/ pizzerias’/ deli’s/ markets…etc from Orient to Mt. Sinai, there were only a handful of names listed. I’m sure that the owners of these businesses feel attacked and disappointed. It is public knowledge that one can go online and research places to eat and find out if they had any health violations. It’s a great idea! It gives patrons and idea of where they are going and it gives business owners a way to strive for a better establishment. But with that being said, to point the fingers at only a few establishments was wrong. Either you print ALL the names or NONE.
    Vera Chinese was only doing her “job” of writing an article for the “people”, but what about the people that you hurt? The North Fork is made up of many small towns and when you decide to target family establishments, you are not only hurting the owner, but their family, friends, and the newspaper that they USED TO advertise in. There is a more tasteful way of writing such an article which does not put specific establishments in harm’s way. She could have easily have written the statistics and percentages of restaurant violations followed by the link to the county Department of Health Services website so that people can take a look for themselves. There was absolutely no reason for naming the business that she did. What gives her the right to decide which businesses to name?
    I would also like to add that if you take a look at the county Department of Health Services website and search each of these establishments listed, you will find that some of their last inspections were almost a year ago! I cannot speak for all businesses, but I know for a fact that issues/violations reported from one establishment in particular have been corrected and therefore are a null point in this article.
    Now, even though the information stated in Ms. Chinese’s article was correct, and defamation cannot legally be pursued, there is a thin line that she and the Suffolk Times have crossed. In my mind, they have given those establishments an unfair negative image. I’m sure I speak on behalf of all the owners who were named when I say, please have better judgment on what you print in the future, and think of everyone who you may be hurting.

  • the point was that it was just as usless as the article………..