Those are among the findings of a report released Tuesday by Inspector General Joseph Ferguson. More than half of Chicago’s restaurants are being inspected less than twice a year, the minimum required by state law.
It means the city may no longer be eligible for $2.5 million in state grants, the audit finds. And seeing a restaurant inspector in Chicago is becoming a rare sight.
The city has four fewer inspectors than it did in 2012 and the IG report says for Chicago to give each of its food establishments a twice a year inspections to comply with state law would require hiring 56 new food safety inspectors.
Chicago currently employs 38 food safety inspectors.
Only 44 percent of Chicago’s “high risk” establishments, including hospital kitchens, day cares, schools, more edgy restaurants got the two inspections last year. The IG report says the failure to twice inspect “at risk” facilities means the city’s Department of Health likely increased the public’s risk of food-borne illnesses.
Chicago has not been in compliance with state law on restaurant inspections for several years. It is the only city in the state out of compliance. A spokesman for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the state does not give the city enough money to meet the requirments.
The spokesman said Emanuel is “committed” to clean restaurants keeping residents safe from foodborne illness. Chicago completed 20,900 food safety inspections in 2015, a year when it should have done 30,026, according to the audit findings.
The city Department of Health was credited by the IG for responding to complaints within five days if foodborne illness might be involved and within 21 days for more general complaints.
It collected $2.8 million from citations for food safety violations.
The department said it may use the IG report to seek higher inspection fees to cover more of the city’s costs.