After facing a setback last year, Detroit City Councilmember Scott Benson refuses to let the matter rest. He’s teaming up with the Dining With Confidence Coalition to initiate a pilot program aimed at improving transparency around restaurant food safety.
“Customers should be able to walk into a restaurant and know that it has passed an inspection and is adhering to food safety standards,” Benson asserted in a recent statement. This remark underscores the essence of the pilot program, which invites Detroit restaurant owners to voluntarily participate in a system focusing on inspection placards.
Slated to run from October 2023 to March 2024, the pilot will engage with restaurants to display placards indicating their compliance with health and safety regulations. The Detroit Health Department will perform routine inspections at participating venues. Establishments passing these inspections without serious violations will receive a green placard to be displayed near the entrance.
The initiative is crucial for Benson, who has been advocating for greater transparency in food safety since 2019, particularly after a three-year hepatitis outbreak affected some restaurants in metro Detroit.
This effort follows Detroit City Council’s decision last November to vote down a similar ordinance proposal. At that time, Benson had proposed the establishment of a placard system for all of Detroit’s more than 1,700 restaurants. Although the council defeated the ordinance with a 6-3 vote, Benson remains undeterred.
The pilot program is an independent move by Benson and the Dining With Confidence Coalition and does not require legislative action. It focuses solely on voluntary participation from restaurant owners, unlike the previously proposed ordinance.
Initial estimates suggest that the original project would have cost around $200,000 per year, with funding from the city’s general fund. The city currently conducts at least one annual inspection for all Detroit restaurants. Depending on the risk level, some establishments may require a second annual inspection. This risk assessment is determined by the complexity of food preparation at each venue.
The pilot program is one part of a renewed push for a comprehensive food safety initiative in Detroit. The coalition aims to build public trust through transparent practices and by directly communicating the compliance status of dining establishments.
“The eyes of our community are on this project,” Benson stated. “It’s time we take food safety seriously and offer Detroit residents and visitors alike the confidence they deserve when dining in our great city.”
The pilot’s outcome will serve as an evaluation tool for how a potential restaurant inspection placard system would operate in Detroit, and could pave the way for broader legislative action in the future.
By collaborating with the Dining With Confidence Coalition, Benson keeps the spotlight on a significant yet often overlooked issue: food safety. This innovative pilot program represents an important step toward more transparent, reliable, and accountable dining experiences in Detroit.