On its first day of operation, May 1, the Virginia Department of
Health's restaurant inspection report Web site was flooded
with more than 800,000 hits. By noon the next day, an additional
400,000 queries had been logged.
In short, the public gobbled up the information provided for the
first time online, though it has always been available from local
The Web site, http://www.vdh.state.va.us,
currently hosts all inspections carried out since Jan. 1 at the
state's 22,000-plus establishments serving food, from the Inn
at Little Washington to the popcorn and drink stands at Busch
Gardens. A press release from Governor Mark Warner said the site is
part of an effort to put more state government services and
The inspection reports list all critical and non-critical
violations. Critical violations are those that can result in
food-borne illnesses, while non-critical violations are not
directly related to the preparation of food, such as missing
lightbulbs or dirty walls. The site is searchable by locality or
The Virginia Restaurant Association criticized the Web site,
complaining to the Associated Press that "it wasn't
necessary that the public have access to this information,"
citing the possibility that results would be misinterpreted.
In unveiling the Web site, Warner cautioned users that the
reports provide only a snapshot of a restaurant on a given day. No
restaurant is perfect and some days will yield more violations than
Follow-up inspections are also posted on the site.