Earlier this year, at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Washington, D.C., Yelp announced an open data project with the City of San Francisco: bringing restaurant hygiene scores onto Yelp business listings. Soon thereafter, Louisville, Kentucky — a model city for embracing open data standards — signed up, followed by Wake County (Raleigh), North Carolina.
Today, we’re thrilled to announce that the most populous county in the country, Los Angeles, has begun providing restaurant inspection data created after July 1, 2013 in the LIVES format. LIVES, which stands for Local Inspector Value Entry Specification, is an open data standard which allows government entities that conduct restaurant inspections to share their data in a format that is easily ingestible for display on Yelp.
What does this mean?
Starting today, restaurant hygiene scores will begin appearing on Yelp business listings for Los Angeles County restaurants. The score will initially be visible on about a third of Los Angeles county restaurants and will fully populate onto Yelp on a rolling basis as new inspections are completed. By law, all Los Angeles County restaurants have to be inspected every 12 months. This means that, by July 2014, virtually every restaurant listing in the county will include this attribute.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, under the leadership of Dr. Jonathan Fielding, has been an international leader in defining best practices for environmental health and restaurant inspections. In fact, Los Angeles County helped pioneer the concept of requiring restaurants to display scores and letter grades as an informational tool for citizens. According to follow-up research, this simple requirement led to a significant reduction in hospitalization due to foodborne illness and resulted in an increased average score across the industry.
At Yelp, we’re optimistic that conspicuously displaying restaurant hygiene scores while consumers are deciding where to go rather than once they get there can have a potentially significant impact on public health. Indeed, we believe it can save lives.