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Chicago May Try Self-Inspection for Low-Risk Eateries

Under a two-year trial supporters say would make it easier to do business in Chicago, restaurants with a history of clean food-handling and retailers that sell pre-packaged foods would inspect themselves and file reports with the city health department.

The self-certification plan, a pilot program backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, was approved this week by a City Council budget committee, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Proponents of the measure say it would enable the city’s 32 health department field inspectors to concentrate on establishments with the greatest risk of causing foodborne illness, and cut some slack to those that have stellar safety records. 

About 2,500 of Chicago’s 15,000 licensed food establishments would meet the requirements for self-certification, the Sun-Times reported. Those include grocery marts or gas stations that don’t prepare the packaged food they sell, as well as restaurants that have passed recent inspections and have not been implicated as a source of foodborne outbreak for three years.

Current city code requires the Department of Public Health to inspect most food establishments at least once every six months, regardless of risk.

The pilot program would run until November 2014.

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