One in three bars and restaurants in Madrid has had an unfavorable health inspection (and now you can find out what they are)

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Whenever we see A Nightmare in the Kitchen we wonder what the hell the health inspectors do. Are they an imaginary entity? Nothing of that. The truth is that any establishment that serves food to the public - be they bars, supermarkets, kiosks, schools or nursing homes - receives at some point a visit from a health inspector (in the case of bars and restaurants, approximately every four years ).

This information is compiled by the autonomous communities, which are the competent authority on consumer matters, or the town councils, in most large cities, but in Spain it is rarely shared with the public.

In 2015, the journalist from The country Neus Vidal managed to get the Barcelona City Council to share the data of the inspections of the last five years, and now the Civio Foundation has had access for the first time to the results of 13,700 inspections carried out by Madrid Salud, which allows knowing the specific situation of many establishments.

It has not been easy. How do you explain Direct to the Palate the author of the investigation, Miguel Ángel Gavilanes, more than two years have passed since Civio asked the Madrid City Council to share this information, a proposal that was rejected.

Madrid Salud has only agreed to share the data after Civio claimed the State Transparency Council, which agreed with the Foundation, so the city council was obliged to share these data.

Not all of them are there, but we get an idea

The data released by the Madrid City Council correspond to the last health control that consists of each establishment visited in 2018, on the one hand, and in the first six months of 2019, on the other. The foundation had requested the data of the inspections of the last five years, but the City Council insists that until 2018 the data were not homogeneous, and could not be extracted with the proper quality of the computer system.

Thanks to the hypnotizing map produced by Civio, you can discover if your favorite restaurant failed the last health inspection

In the period for which we have data, Madrid Salud inspected more than 9,000 food establishments in the capital: of these, 3,900 are bars, cafes and restaurants; the rest, supermarkets and dining rooms of schools, residences or companies. Not all the locals are there, which amount to 42,169, but at least we know the situation of more than 20%.

Thanks to the hypnotizing map created by Civio, you can discover if your favorite restaurant failed the last health inspection. It's not difficult: more than a third of cafes, bars and restaurants had an unfavorable share. In total, 1,200 stores.

In the days to come, Civio will continue to dig into the vast amount of data available, to point out, for example, that in schools failures are reduced to one in ten.

We know who fails, not why

The data collected by Civio does not detail the infringements detected, only the final result, information that the City Council still has not released, alluding to technical reasons - according to the Madrid Saud food safety manager, the system cannot export that information - but Knowing the parameters that the inspections measure, we can get an idea of ​​what must be breached in order not to pass a review.

There are only disciplinary proceedings or, where appropriate, activity suspensions, in the event of rational indications of risk to health or collective safety

As Gavilanes explains, each breach of health regulations has a value. For example, using expired food accounts for six points; staff not washing hands after using the toilet or lack of training in food handling, four; plagues, five. The classification of the hygienic-sanitary state of a premises depends on the sum of these points, which can be favorable, favorable conditioned or unfavorable. It will be unfavorable when they accumulate 10 or more.

Deficiencies that have no impact on product safety remain a wake-up call, but the store will be more likely to be re-inspected.

But even though a quarter of all inspections were unfavorable, not all had consequences. Madrid Salud only proposed 1,355 sanctions in 2018 and decreed 182 suspensions of the activity. Why are there so many offenders who get away with it?

"That surprised me," acknowledges Gavilanes. "The response of the city council was that there are more or less serious breaches, and there are different measures to take."

There are only disciplinary proceedings or, where appropriate, activity suspensions, in the event of rational indications of risk to health or collective safety. In the rest of the cases, measures are adopted such as the requirement for the correction of breaches, the withdrawal of the sale, the precautionary immobilization, the temporary withdrawal of the food handler, the re-labeling of the product or the voluntary or mandatory destruction of the products.

Greater transparency, greater trust

After seeing the map published by Civio, we may be concerned about the number of red dots that are seen, but we have to think that their existence implies that action is being taken.

"If there is a problem that poses a risk to food health, Madrid Salud does not think about it and is going to close the premises," says Gavilanes

"The impression I have after having investigated this is that the inspections are done well," says Gavilanes. “If there is a problem that poses a risk to food health, Madrid Salud does not think about it and is going to close the premises. Another thing is the repeated breaches of the regulations that are appearing, which do not pose a risk to health. It may be that the place is old or has practices that are not safe, that maybe they are not dangerous, but they could lead to contamination ”.

The investigation focuses on 690 catering businesses that were inspected in both 2019 and 2018, which often indicates that the inspection was repeated after a first violation. Of these, 155 are repeat offenders: they had both deficiencies in both exercises.

For Gavilán it is important that the inspections are reinforced but, in addition, that these are made public, something that would improve the confidence of citizens, both in public entities and in private companies.

"When I received the data, the first thing I did was look for my daughter's nursery and when I saw that the inspection had been favorable, I was calmer," explains the journalist. "With an unfavorable result, I would have asked what happened, I would ask for an account, and I think any user should be able to do that, because we are consumers and the inspectors work for you."

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