Hawaii's Food Safety Goes Dark: Critical Lapse In Public Health Transparency

Hawaii’s Food Safety Goes Dark: Critical Lapse In Public Health Transparency

If you check restaurant inspection reports from the Hawaii Department of Health (DOH) Food Safety Division online, you’ll get a message that the site is no longer available. Try it at Hawaii Health Inspections and see for yourself. Hawaii does not have the technology to maintain this information on its own and uses an outside vendor. Exactly what happened to that relationship isn’t clear, nor is why the state didn’t get another vendor prior to losing this important pro-consumer content.

The contract, however, expired in January, and there were no backup plans with a new vendor to have a seamless transition. According to DOH, its new vendor will be announced in May and plans are for the website will return in July after being down six months this year!

This vital tool for public safety is deemed not important by DOH.

If public safety and transparency of restaurant inspection reports were important to them, I don’t think they would be in the mess they are in now. Their ineptness has been passed on to us, the public, who must now call or email DOH to obtain a restaurant report instead of going online to see it.

This gap in service again raises questions about Hawaii’s governance.

This service outage hampers the ability of consumers to make informed choices about where to dine safely in Hawaii. The current lapse came to light when it was revealed that the legislature’s House Health Committee wasn’t even informed about the contract’s expiration and the ensuing service disruption.

Last year, we wrote about numerous Hawaii food safety problems.

A range of food safety issues impacted Hawaii restaurants last year which we reported on. Those included Cheeseburger in Paradise, Maui Brewing Company, Cafe Mambo, and others including the airlines’ food services.

Our access to that information was facilitated by the online service that is currently unavailable.

Hawaii restaurant safety

This oversight is particularly concerning due to the critical role that food safety plays in public health. On a more positive note, it is reported that the Food Safety Division continues its operations. They are still conducting routine and complaint-based restaurant inspections. If you look, you can still find the green, yellow, and red placards shown at restaurants. Without online access, however, the visibility of these activities to the public has been greatly reduced. We will go to the website to check reports before trying a new restaurant.

A breakdown in Hawaii Department of Health transparency.

State lawmakers voiced incredible frustration about the lack of communication about the lapse in service, the absence of communication with the legislature about the issue, and the excessive delay in re-establishing the service. Committee members said that this should be the function of the DOH and that the public shouldn’t have to research to find the information.

The absence of an accessible, comprehensive online system leaves a gap in oversight and accountability.

While it may be several more months until this situation is rectified, we’re hopeful that it might be restored sooner than anticipated with this problem now coming to light.

How does this reflect on Hawaii’s commitment to health and safety?

This incident has highlighted a significant need for governance and public communication improvement. As the service returns, we hope it enhances the transparency and effectiveness of Hawaii food safety regulations, reinforcing our trust and ensuring the well-being of all who eat out in Hawaii.

What do you think of the lack of online access to Hawaii restaurant inspection reports?

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23 thoughts on “Hawaii’s Food Safety Goes Dark: Critical Lapse In Public Health Transparency”

  1. Just another negative. Hey nothing in Hawaii is seldom free. IMO if you want a cheap bite to eat go to Costco where a hotdog and soft drink is $1.50 at the food court. Even if you have to initiate a membership (60) a year you are way ahead. Four Hotdogs and drink $6 vs fast food at 20 dollars per person. Do the math. IMO if you really want to know go to trip advisor or any resource and look at the customer reviews of the restaurant. The rich and wealthy don’t dine where governor Greens so called low budget ,entry level tourist, would go. Maybe that’s part of the plan to weed out low end tourists. Any recommendations Rob or Jeff? Budget low-High. Any connections with Gordon Ramsay? Problem Solved.

    1. Hi Don.

      Thanks for asking. We tend to like the farmers markets and don’t head towards Costco food court. Restaurant reviews are not our stock in trade, but if you have any specific questions please ask away and someone will probably lend a hand.

      Aloha.

      1. Found another solution. Get a hold of Duwayne Chapman (Dog the Bounty Hunter) on Ohau or his Colorado ranch and tell him
        There needs to be a fix for red carded restaurant reports. Hunt down Gordon Ramsay and see if he can do a Kitchen Nightmares Hawaii edition Pronto. If Duwayne claims Hawaii is the closest thing to heaven then the food should be rated the same. By the way farmers markets are way healthy no high starch,grease,or salt. Great recommendation.

  2. It seems that a temp site could be set up where the lists that can be obtained via email request are attached in pdf format each day. Who would do this would be an assigned employee from Heath Dept or a temp contractor. Just my initial thought

  3. Maybe the experience of tainted food, ecolli, listeria,and other stomach illnesses will surely wreck or shorten some tourists stay. What flip a coin on safe or unsafe to eat without knowing the food health departments rating of a restaurant. IMO send the state higher ups in blindfolded first and let them test the food. If non come out with white or green faces then I guess it could be considered safe. I bet after a few times the Heath department will surely be in operation quickly and gladly reporting. Problem solved. No tourist need to get sick and remember that kind of experience.

    1
    1. Are there major foodborne illnesses reported across the islands???

      That said, no prob with using the state politicians as songbirds in every case where they have screwed the Hawaiian people and visitors…

      I really dont think most people have any idea of the food safety ratings of most restaurants in HI–they come, they eat, they love the food, they pay a Ridiculous food bill, and then walk out never have any idea how sanitary (or not) the food prep conditions were.

      Question: do we even need a Hawaiian food health department at all?

      1. Hi Peterparker22.

        Perhaps you’re joking. Having gotten sick at restaurants in Hawaii multiple times, we can say absolutely that we need it, and have been grateful for their helpful follow-up.

        Aloha.

  4. Face it, we’re a third world banana (maybe the wrong word since we can’t grow bananas that cost less than $1.59 a pound) republic masquerading as a legitimate state… It’s only going to get worse too as runaway costs and prices destroy the economic activities not already done in by our insane regulations…

    Best Regards

    3
  5. Thank you, Beat of Hawaii, for bringing this to light! I consider myself pretty diligent about following local news, and yet you were the only source of this information. My husband and I recently had the upsetting experience of eating at a restaurant in Kapolei and seeing a roach crawl across the table during dinner. I’d love to be able to check the restaurant’s inspection record, but I guess DOH doesn’t want me to be able to do that easily, huh?

    1
  6. Hawaii is certainly Hawaii’s worst enemy, where else can anyone screw up this badly and retain their employment? Ready accessibility via internet lookup is what is expected and acceptable, calling is Not. What are they hiding? With the site down it certainly shouldn’t be that difficult to make changes to results. I believe that we may never be certain what has transpired during the outage. I do find it interesting that very few people knew about it.

    2
  7. So is this another case of follow the money because it is now possible that more people, such as the FBI, are actually looking at whatever the previous contract for the vendor was and now there would no longer be the kind of kickback that there previously was for someone in the state government? Maybe they just want that whole issue to go away so that they can start over and maybe, just maybe, draw up an agreement for the services rendered exactly as it is supposed to be done.

  8. Here’s an idea that will help get Hawaii’s complacent and incompetent government back on track. Jeff and Rob of BOH fame, run for Governor and Lt. Governor. They can decide who runs for which of the two offices.
    They run as independents, so they are not beholden to either major political party. They get elected and completely clean house in all state government departments from the top down. Strict accountability and oversight are the new norms, and the good citizens of Hawaii are the top and only priority.
    It’s a win win for everybody and a new spirit of Aloha is born.

    18
  9. In Oregon this sort of thing is run at the county level. And in Marion & Polk Counties of Oregon, every few weeks there is an article in the local paper listing out all the restaurant inspections, their scores, and their deficiencies in the local area. I wonder if the Star-Bulletin (it still exists, right?) would like to take up the slack for the state government there….

    9
  10. Is this DOH vendor by chance the one from which executive wore the wire for the last year for the NYT article while attending the closed door political fundraising vendor dinners to get lucrative HI contracts?

    HI is so freaking corrupt. Love the state and the people, but seriously, how naive can you be to keep these horrible corrupt and unethical politicians in office? Find that one guy who cant be turned and will stand up for what is right and put him at the top, surrounded by people who cannot be turned, who will support but also watch him to ensure he maintains his ethics and works for the people.

    12
  11. This is sadly not surprising. I’m constantly astonished at the appalling lack of digital competency here in Hawaii. This permeates all levels of online presence from government to private industry to social organizations.

    Far too many small businesses and community organizations don’t even bother and simply rely on social media. It’s completely astounding.

    But this case also speaks to the appalling lack of professional accountability and management that permeates Hawaiian politics.

    8
  12. Governor’s Green, Ige, Nuclear Attack Warnings in Waikiki, the Lahaina Tragedy, with again Green off-Island, Hawaiian Power, Airport Runway issues, Un-Employment Compensation $500M upside down, the continued Pandemic chaos in the employment. Housing issues, the destroying of their Tourist Industry, all that can culminate with One Party Rule, the corruption identified in The NY Times, and Governor Green using Taxpayer $ to travel to Japan twice this Spring, rather then look to the 49 States, Australia and Canada! Having demonized a Race of Tourists!

    21
  13. As usual, Hawai`i lacks accountability.

    The head of DOH should lose his/her job over this, as it speaks to overall incompetence.

    13
    1. Exactly Steve, right on.
      Hawaii’s governance is a train wreck of total incompetence at all levels. Residents will not see any improvement until they stop voting for one party rule and the special interests that feed it with dark money contributions as a part of the “good old boy” network.

      13
  14. This prove where the priorities are. No resources for food safety but OMG, try to start a guided SCUBA business and DLNR will make sure you can’t.

    14
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