Practicing a little food safety while traversing South Dakota to visit Mount Rushmore just got easier. The state health department has now put restaurant scores online along with grades for lodging and campground establishments. It means you can quickly check the scores for some of those famous South Dakota tourist attractions like Wall Drug (91), Rushmore Plaza (89), and the Corn Palace (91). Rushmore Plaza and the Corn Palace each had a critical violation in their last inspection. Those are a few examples of how South Dakota is stepping up its entire inspection and licensing system. The first to benefit are residents and visiting consumers who can now access the inspection scores for South Dakota’s nearly 6,000 food service, lodging and campground establishments on the new state website. And by this time next year, the state South Dakota Department of Health’s upgrade project calls for posting the full inspection reports. For now, the new website has the score and number of critical violations for at least the past four inspections. Inspections are public record under South Dakota state law, and were previously made available only upon request. Moving them to the web is part of the state’s transparency program for public records. “We needed an electronic system that would let inspectors enter real-time inspection reports, vendors submit license applications and fees, and the public to more easily access health scores so creating it was no easy task,” said SD Secretary of Health Doneen Hollingsworth. “This should be a vast improvement over the antiquated paper-based system we’ve been using and should streamline the process for vendors and inspectors alike,” she added. South Dakota had hoped to have the scores online by late 2011, but the new software took longer than was anticipated before it could be made public. The state is making the shift to an electronic licensing and inspection system with funding from a $151,000 federal grant received last August. The target date for putting the full inspection reports on line is this time next year. The system will begin handling license renewals online beginning this fall. Consumers can now access at least the last four inspection scores, inspections dates, type of inspection, and the number of critical violations found during each inspection. Scores are being updated every 24 hours. Clark Hepper, who heads the state office of health protection, says anyone can access the information and then determine whether the establishment “meets your standards.” South Dakota last year reported: – About 4,100 establishments were licensed as food services. – Of those, 94 percent earned scores of 85 percent or higher. – Scores ranged from a low of 43 to those earning a high of 100. State health officials says while scores are important, consumers should also pay attention to the number of critical violations being racked up by food service establishments. Critical violations present an immediate threat to public health. Food service establishments are inspected without any advance warning at least twice year in South Dakota. A score below 80 triggers a re-inspection in 60 days when all identified violations must be corrected. Critical violations must be corrected immediately.