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Curious about Health Code policy

CarrieWas218 Dec 8, 2013 05:16 AM

In another thread, the following statement was issued by the Chowhound team:

"We actually have a site policy of not discussing Health Code violations, Health Department closings and related issues. We wanted to mention that before people got into any details about the situation here. Thanks."

I can understand the idea of not having malicious posters spread potentially vicious rumors about getting sick in a restaurant in order to dissuade other customers, but if a well-known restaurant is shut down by the health department, than there is factual documentation by a licensed, government agency for SOME reason and could that not be worthy of discussions by and for Chow members?

  1. Jacquilynne Dec 9, 2013 10:59 AM

    As others have mentioned, our reason for not discussing violations and closing has a lot to do with timeliness. The potential for bad information about the cleanliness of a restaurant to damage a business is so huge that we feel like it's really important that any site that's going to host that kind of information ensure that it's accurate, complete and up-to-date. People will decide for themselves how they feel about mixed reviews of deliciousness of the food at a restaurant, but just one report of food poisoning or vermin is enough to turn a lot of people away from going there.

    In situations where the health department has issued a report, we can be reasonably certain the information is accurate, but once the problem is corrected and the business re-opened, it's no longer up-to-date. We maintain archives back to the 1990s and Chowhound posts rank quite highly on Google -- a restaurant could be tarnished with a one-time incident 15 years later if people talked about it here.

    To give a fuller picture of our policy, I'll talk about the other two criteria, as well, though they don't really come into play in the question in this thread:

    In terms of accuracy, we really mean that reports should be verifiable. Health department reports give us that, but a lot of the 'I got sick' or 'I saw a bug' reports don't have that kind of back-up, and people are notoriously bad at figuring out where they got food poisoning. And even if they do know, it's hard to tell if it was the restaurant's fault or if someone delivered them a bad order of supplies.

    By completeness, we mean that a resource that's going to offer this type of info should have all of it. If we have some reports of problems people will start to think that Chowhound is a good source of that info, but our user submitted info isn't comprehensive. So someone could assume because they hadn't seen bad reports about a given restaurant on Chowhound, it must be safe, when all it would really mean is nobody on Chowhound had been unlucky enough to get sick there. We really want people to turn to the Health Department for this type of info and not assume that they will find any of it here.

    1. sunshine842 Dec 8, 2013 07:04 AM

      it's their game and their ball, so it's their rules.

      28 Replies
      1. re: sunshine842
        CarrieWas218 Dec 8, 2013 10:55 AM

        I understand that, but am curious about the rationale behind said rules...

        1. re: CarrieWas218
          Servorg Dec 8, 2013 11:36 AM

          I don't know the rational for the site but as to my way of thinking:

          It's "closing the barn door after the bone-in rib eye got away" since the restaurant got cited and had to correct the deficiency to reopen, so what really is being accomplished by publicizing this information on CH?

          It also seems to rev up the smearing side of some personalities here and the "flies in my food" stories start to fly, causing more clean up on aisle 4 for the moderating team...

          1. re: Servorg
            greygarious Dec 8, 2013 01:48 PM

            Is complaining about a restaurant's food on an "off" night, or about a staff member who's since departed, not analogous to bringing up a corrected deficiency? The former happen all the time.

            Personally, I can't fathom CH's moratorium on health code discussions, unless they fear some sort of legal liability for disseminating slander.

            1. re: greygarious
              sunshine842 Dec 8, 2013 01:53 PM

              ***dingdingding***

              Got it in one.

              Libel, since it appears printed form, but same idea.

              1. re: sunshine842
                BiscuitBoy Dec 11, 2013 01:59 PM

                But it's not libel if it's true, proven, documented, and posted on the window for the world to see. I see no reason to censor public information...THAT is a violation in MY handbook

                1. re: BiscuitBoy
                  CarrieWas218 Dec 11, 2013 04:41 PM

                  I guess this is my thought as well which is why I questioned the policy.

                  1. re: BiscuitBoy
                    carolinadawg Dec 11, 2013 05:02 PM

                    Plus, the site can't be held responsible for what the posters write.

                    1. re: carolinadawg
                      CarrieWas218 Dec 11, 2013 05:44 PM

                      I'm not entirely convinced of that and would like to see something definitive in that regard...

                      1. re: CarrieWas218
                        carolinadawg Dec 11, 2013 05:54 PM

                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_...

                        1. re: carolinadawg
                          jrvedivici Dec 11, 2013 06:46 PM

                          Well you bring up an interesting point, while on the surface you are completely correct and your link is accurate, there is a difference between what you have supplied and Chow.

                          A web site where people leave comments is immune to the comments left by posters, the same protections do Not apply to web sites that monitor, alter or remove comments by contributors.

                          So here on Chow we are all free to leave and make comments, however because the mods have the ability to remove, edit or alter our responses this does make them vulnerable to suit for libel.

                          Chow could choose to remove positive responses or positive reviews and just leave negative ones, which means they are skewing the facts presented by the public.

                          So traditionally comments left on articles on yahoo or AOL are exempt, posts on sites like Chow are not protected and leave the site open to suit.

                          1. re: jrvedivici
                            carolinadawg Dec 11, 2013 07:02 PM

                            The salient point isn't what the site owner leaves up or removes, it's whether or not the site owner has knowledge of the veracity of what's posted.

                            1. re: carolinadawg
                              jrvedivici Dec 11, 2013 07:12 PM

                              I'm sorry but I'm responding to "Plus, the site can't be held responsible for what the posters write" and the subsequent Wikipedia link you provided, neither of which apply to Chow.

                              1. re: jrvedivici
                                carolinadawg Dec 11, 2013 07:18 PM

                                I don't think you are correct, for the reason stated in my previous post.

                                1. re: carolinadawg
                                  jrvedivici Dec 11, 2013 07:34 PM

                                  There is no wrong or right to this issue, I'm just saying sites like Chow are not exempt from libel because of this suit.

                                  http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jones_...

                                  Think what you want but this has players far larger than Chow concerned over the consequences of free speech on the Internet.

                                  1. re: jrvedivici
                                    Veggo Dec 11, 2013 07:42 PM

                                    JR, it may very well be that the CH policies on this matter are driven by a sense of fair play and conscience, which can be more restrictive than concerns about tort liability. That would be a good thing.

                                    1. re: Veggo
                                      Servorg Dec 11, 2013 07:45 PM

                                      Seeing how the moderation policy has worked in the past I can't imagine that if anyone contacted the moderators with a claim of libel that looked even remotely credible I don't for a minute doubt that it would be removed, post haste.

                                      1. re: Servorg
                                        jrvedivici Dec 11, 2013 07:51 PM

                                        I'm not questioning that, but the case I quoted above shows regardless of what a sites credibility might be, the courts have established liability.

                                        1. re: Servorg
                                          Veggo Dec 11, 2013 07:56 PM

                                          A "no go zone", if you will, between gentlemanly conduct and the edge of civil tort exposure, is a useful prophylactic for integrity, reputation, and minimizing legal expenses. And, it's the right thing to do.

                                        2. re: Veggo
                                          jrvedivici Dec 11, 2013 07:45 PM

                                          Veggo I don't disagree at all I'm just saying this statement; "
                                          Plus, the site can't be held responsible for what the posters write" is not accurate. That's all, sites like Chow have been proven not to have the amunity we assume.

                                          1. re: jrvedivici
                                            carolinadawg Dec 11, 2013 07:48 PM

                                            Proven how? The Jones suit hasn't been finalized, therefore nothing has "been established". Plus, there are significant differences between thedirty.com and Chowhound.com.

                                        3. re: jrvedivici
                                          carolinadawg Dec 11, 2013 07:44 PM

                                          It's pure conjecture on your part as to whether or not that suit has any application to Chowhound.com.

                                          1. re: carolinadawg
                                            jrvedivici Dec 11, 2013 07:48 PM

                                            It is pure conjecture on my part without a doubt, I'm not saying anything to the contrary. I'm simply stating your claims of immunity based on the facts and link you provided are not factually true.

                                            Who am I to speak on Chows behalf?

                                            1. re: jrvedivici
                                              carolinadawg Dec 11, 2013 07:58 PM

                                              You're going around in circles. As of this moment, there is nothing to support a position contrary to Chowhound being protected by the CDA.

                                              1. re: carolinadawg
                                                Jacquilynne Dec 12, 2013 10:04 AM

                                                Since the possibility of comments being libelous is not one of the reasons for our policy, this is all kind of moot. Interesting, yes, but not really applicable here.

                                                1. re: Jacquilynne
                                                  carolinadawg Dec 12, 2013 10:06 AM

                                                  Ok, but I didn't bring it up as a reason.

                                                  1. re: carolinadawg
                                                    Jacquilynne Dec 12, 2013 10:15 AM

                                                    I just replied to your post because it was the last in the conversation -- wasn't laying blame at all.

                      2. re: greygarious
                        Servorg Dec 8, 2013 02:05 PM

                        "Is complaining about a restaurant's food on an "off" night, or about a staff member who's since departed, not analogous to bringing up a corrected deficiency?"

                        I don't find those analogous as they are subjective judgements that others who eat there may, or may not, agree with.

                        And talking about health code violations really does seem to bring out the worst in some posters...much to the detriment of this site.

                        1. re: Servorg
                          Veggo Dec 8, 2013 02:21 PM

                          Most health violations are minor and are quickly remedied. I don't think it would be fair for a restaurant to be haunted on a CH thread that just won't end, by a roach that was discovered and dispatched 6 years ago.

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