The three dozen inspectors at the Chicago Department of Public Health scrutinize 16,000 eating establishments to protect diners from gut-bombing food sickness. Some of those pose more of a health risk than others; approximately 15 percent of inspections catch a critical violation.
For years, Chicago, like most every city in the U.S., scheduled these inspections by going down the complete list of food vendors and making sure they all had a visit in the mandated timeframe. That process ensured that everyone got inspected, but not that the most likely health code violators got inspected first. And speed matters in this case. Every day that unsanitary vendors serve food is a new chance for diners to get violently ill, paying in time, pain, and medical expenses.