People soon will know if a restaurant or pool is clean as soon as they approach the entrance, thanks to the Union County Health Department.

People soon will know if a restaurant or pool is clean as soon as they approach the entrance, thanks to the Union County Health Department.

The health department will place placards at pools and restaurants for the first time in its nearly 90-year history, health department spokesperson Jennifer Thrush said. The green placards will allow the public to know the location has passed inspection and the date of the inspection.

The decision to use the placards came after several local health departments, including the Franklin County Board of Health, experienced success with the program, Thrush said.

"In general, the program seems to be well received by restaurant managers because it reassures customers that the restaurant is working hard to provide safe food, and diners seem to appreciate knowing that their favorite eatery recently passed a food safety inspection," Thrush said.

If a restaurant fails an inspection, it will not receive a placard. If a sanitarian finds any small violations, the business will be notified. Thrush said small violations include a dirty floor or cracked seals in a refrigerator or freezer. The sanitarian will return within a couple days and work with the business owner to make sure everything is up to code before a placard is issued.

Not all restaurants will be checked until November, so not all clean restaurants have placards yet, Thrush insisted. There are more than 250 food vendors in Union County and only three registered sanitarians to check them. The health department also inspects the 26 public pools and spas in Union County.

All pools and spas passed inspection, said health commissioner Jason Orcena. Placards were issued from early July to the beginning of August.

Orcena said pools and restaurants receive placards because of their interaction with the public. The health department also inspects private sewage systems, bio-waste management and private wells, but these do not get placards because they don't involve the general public.

When sanitarians inspect a restaurant, they look at overall cleanliness, how the food is handled, the temperature at which the food is stored and cooked, and the organization of the pantry and kitchen, Thrush said.

Outdoor pools are inspected every two weeks during the swimming season. Hotel pools and spas are inspected quarterly, said sanitarian Melissa Henry.

Orcena said pool checks include measuring the pH balance, chlorine levels and amount of minerals such as iron or calcium in the water. These minerals can affect the chlorine's ability to suppress the growth of bacteria in the water.

calexis@thisweeknews.com