S.C. diners instantly access food inspection grades with QR codes

Published: Apr. 3, 2023 at 8:42 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 3, 2023 at 8:54 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) - Diners in South Carolina can now access restaurant inspection details with a quick scan using their smartphones.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is adding QR codes to the Food Grade decals located at the main entrances giving immediate access to view retail food establishments’ inspection histories.

Scanning the new QR codes with smartphones will direct diners to S.C. Food Grades where they can look up food inspection reports. These reports include a facility’s compliance and violation history in regard to the state regulations for safe food handling.

“Our S.C. Food Grades app is a great resource for anyone interested in viewing recent inspection reports for their favorite restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores,” said Sandra Craig, Director of DHEC’s Division of Food and Lead Risk Assessments. “By adding a QR code to every Food Grade decal, patrons can conveniently view information beyond the food grade alone.”

At the end of an inspection, once a DHEC food inspector has discussed the findings of their inspection with facility personnel, a letter grade is posted at the main entrance. The grade is based on the calculated numerical score of the inspection and the facility’s past compliance history:

  • Grade A: The establishment earned more than 87 points; food safety practices appeared to meet the requirements of Regulation 61-25.
  • Grade B: The establishment earned 87-78 points; food safety practices need improvement.
  • Grade C: The establishment earned less than 78 points; food safety practices need significant improvement.

Craig noted that it was the recommendation of a DHEC food inspector to add the QR code to the decals after realizing many customers were aware of the letter grades but not the more detailed inspection reports available on S.C. Food Grades.

Owner of Southside Patty’s in Garden City, William Thompson, says it benefits the customers so they can see how clean a restaurant is or if there have been any past issues.

He said, ”I think it’s a great idea. Again, they can pull up the score, and see how it rates, how clean the kitchen is, see where the negatives are. Sounds like pluses all around, unless you’re scared of your score.”

Owner of newly-opened O.A.K Prime Kitchen and Bar, Chris Roberts says, he’s all for being transparent with his clients.

“It gives the customer, kind of an insight, that they normally wouldn’t get. It’s that whole transparency thing,” Roberts said. “You know you can walk up to the door, scan the QR code, and you can kinda go well you know these guys are great or whoa they’re missing some things here and we may move on.”

DHEC’s goal is to have the new QR code letter grades placed at each permitted establishment within a year.

Food inspections are unannounced, and each inspection score is a snapshot in time based on how a retail food establishment handles the five major risk factors for food safety, as outlined by Regulation 61-25: Food Contact Equipment Cleanliness, Cooking Temperatures, Employee Health, Food Sources, and Food Holding Temperatures. DHEC is responsible for performing risk-based inspections at more than 22,000 retail food establishments in the state, which includes restaurants, grocery stores, food trucks, convenience stores, schools, and other institutions.

View inspection reports on S.C. Food Grades at scdhec.gov/foodgrades.