Health code violators might be published Proposed ordinance would allow city to give vendors' names to media

March 03, 1998|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

Baltimore restaurants and city food vendors cited for health code violations soon might have their names published and broadcast under a proposed ordinance unveiled yesterday by the city Health Department.

In the past, city laws prevented the Health Department from releasing the names of violators to the news media, saying that city fines and temporary shutdowns were punishment enough.

But high-profile violations last year at a large grocer and one of the city's top-rated downtown restaurants caused city leaders to reconsider the policy.

"This is something that we should have been doing all along," Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Peter Beilenson said. "New York does it, Washington does it and people should know when places are closed for health reasons."

Baltimore has 8,000 food sellers, including groceries and restaurants. Last year, 94 or about 1 percent were cited for violating city health codes, Beilenson said. Half of the 94 establishments were restaurants.

The proposed ordinance follows a move by Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke that increased the number of city food inspectors from 10 to 15 this year. Baltimore handles 30 percent of all food sellers in the state, Beilenson said.

The Restaurant Association of Maryland initially opposed the ordinance. But Beilenson said the association is no longer challenging the proposed change. Association leaders couldn't be reached to comment yesterday.

If approved by the City Council and the mayor, the law would give dining customers in Baltimore more confidence, Beilenson said.

"It should be an incentive to restaurant owners," Beilenson said. "People can feel comfortable going to restaurants."

Pub Date: 3/03/98

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