Catering industry with ‘dirty kitchen’ to see online

By name, restaurant LOOF from Utrecht is on the site of the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA), because the hygiene would not be in order. The inspection report from 2019 states that ‘points for improvement have been identified’. “Yes, I know about it”, responds the owner. “It’s good that this is public, although it’s an old report.”

As of 1 September, the NVWA will be able to publish the hygiene reports of inspected catering establishments in the Netherlands more quickly. Until now, only the reports from Utrecht, Amsterdam, The Hague and Rotterdam have been published online, as a trial.

No more inspections

This means that from now on, before visiting a restaurant or cafรฉ, guests can view the NVWA’s most recent inspection report online. An explicit wish of the Lower House will be fulfilled with this, but the NVWA does not intend to carry out any more physical inspections.

“We are not equipped for that,” says a spokesperson for the NVWA. She also emphasises that there will not be a complete list of all restaurants online as of 1 September. “We are only going to make the inspection reports digitally easier and quicker to publish Until now, a report could only be requested and viewed via a Wob request.

It is an enforcement instrument for the NVWA: more transparency should lead to better compliance with laws and regulations. Catering entrepreneurs have therefore been warned. But the Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN) sector organisation is not very enthusiastic about the plan. “There is room for arbitrariness,” says KHN director Dirk Beljaarts. “Food safety is also number one among our members. But the inspections carried out by the NVWA are not structural: it is a kind of lottery who is inspected. That’s not fair.”

Beljaarts acknowledges that transparency is essential for food safety: “But make sure that only the excesses come out. I know too many examples of hospitality entrepreneurs where a relatively minor abuse remains for a long time because there is no re-check. This can damage a company’s good name, which seems disproportionate to me”

Employee Ebru of LOOF at the Domplein in Utrecht also finds it annoying that the NVWA has not returned, which makes the inspection report from 2019 the most recent one. “We don’t want people to stay away because of this. Hygiene is our business card, we do everything we can to run a good business. Especially now, in corona time. We think it’s fine that the data is public for everyone, but I’d rather see the NVWA come by more often.”

Roti Ganzenpoort in Amsterdam also has a note from the NVWA, but the food authority has not seen it since. “We are open for three years. There is a report from 2018 stating that there are areas for improvement with us. But they’re welcome to visit us, everything is going well for us. Only we haven’t seen them for a long time.”

The employee of the roti-restaurant thinks it’s fine when inspection reports are made public. He just doesn’t think consumers look at them. “i’d just rely on the reviews myself if i went to a restaurant.”