January 18, 2012

City Council Approves Ordinance to Enhance Public Health Safety and Make Doing Business in Chicago Easier for Food Businesses

Ordinance Streamlines Restaurant Inspection Process and Launches Self-Certification Pilot Program

Mayor's Press Office    312.744.3334

The Chicago City Council passed an ordinance today that will modernize and streamline the City’s food inspection program to better ensure health safety and make it easier for food establishments to do business. The new ordinance allows the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) to implement risk-based food inspections and launch a self-certification pilot to improve the efficiency of its food inspection program.

“This ordinance will allow the City to better ensure the health safety of Chicagoans by allowing a more targeted and streamlined approach to inspections,” said Mayor Emanuel.

Implementing risk-based food inspections allows CDPH to more effectively use its resources to target establishments that have a higher risk of causing health issues like food-borne illnesses. Currently, the Department is required to inspect all food establishments, regardless of risk, at least once every six months. In the new model high risk food establishments can expect more inspections and low risk food establishments can expect less. CDPH will also create an alternative certification system for “low-risk” food retailers to “self-certify,” maintaining public health safety while saving taxpayer dollars. CDPH will launch a pilot of this program in the coming months, making it one of the first major cities to implement such a program.

“Both of these initiatives will allow the department to conduct food inspections more effectively, better serving the taxpayers while still ensuring the health safety of Chicagoans,” said Bechara Choucair, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner.

As part of the pilot program, the Chicago Board of Health will adopt rules and regulations further defining “low-risk” food establishments, as well as additional guidelines needed to properly implement and enforce the pilot program. Definitions of “low-risk” food establishments will include:

  • Food establishments that primarily serve pre-packaged foods;
  • Food establishments that have
    • Passed an inspection within the 12 months directly preceding review;
    • Within the 36 months directly preceding review have not been closed for any food safety issues;
    • Within the 36 months directly preceding review, have not been implicated as a source of a food-borne outbreak.

The Chicago Board of Health’s proposed rules and regulations will be open to public review before being implemented.

Full inspection reports for food establishments across the city can be viewed online in an easy-to-read and searchable format, providing more transparency into the inspections process and increasing accountability to ensure healthy conditions. Updated weekly, the inspections dataset is located here.