Founded by a diverse team of computer scientists and economists, Hazel Analytics provides a
suite of web-based automated tools that gather, integrate, standardize, and enable rich reporting and data
analytics capabilities for regulatory inspections.
The Problem With Regulatory Inspection Data
Across the U.S., local governments conduct regular food safety inspections for 1+ million
retail outlets, including restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores, food trucks, and institutional
Many departments in the U.S. make this inspection data available online. This is a step in
the right direction, but it's not enough.
The problem is that the data is not available in a standardized format that is easily
consumed by analytics tools.
In addition, there is a vast amount of data available to us. In our work with retail food
inspections, we have gathered data for over seven million inspections
from nearly one million facilities across one hundred twenty jurisdictions.
Our team has decades of research experience related to food safety, regulatory
inspections, and impacts of policy. Much of this research has been published in top academic journals around
the world and output from the research has also been adopted by policy makers in the US and abroad. Below is
a selection of that research.
Inspection Technology, Detection and Compliance: Evidence from
Florida Restaurant Inspections
Many regulations mandate that government employees inspect economic entities on a regular
basis. In this paper, we show that a small innovation in inspection technology can make substantial
differences in inspection outcomes. For restaurant hygiene inspections, the state of Florida has introduced
a handheld electronic device, the portable digital assistant (PDA), which reminds inspectors of about 1,000
potential violations that may be checked for. Using administrative data on inspections conducted from July
2003 to June 2009, we find that the adoption of PDAs led to 11% more detected violations. Subsequent
inspection outcome suggests that restaurants may have increased their compliance efforts gradually.
Although there could be other explanations for the inspection outcome, we find that PDA use is
significantly correlated with a reduction in restaurant-related foodborne disease
Quality Disclosure and Certification: Theory and Practice
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Ben has 15 years of experience in developing and studying informational technologies. As a full
Professor of Computer Science at UMCP and the former director of the Human Computer Interaction Lab, he co-leads
the NSF-funded International Children's Digital Library founded in 2002 (ICDL - www.childrenslibrary.org), and
received the 2010 Social Impact Award for his work on ICDL and studying electronic voting machines. Ben is
currently Associate Provost of Learning Initiatives at UMD, and is also co-founder and chief scientist at Zumobi,
Inc., a startup mobile app publisher.
Ginger is a full Professor of Economics at UMCP and has done extensive research in information
disclosure and public policy. In addition to studying food safety inspection data in California and Florida, she
has examined information issues in prescription drug advertising, health insurance ratings, e-commerce and online
data usage. Most of her research involves processing, combining and analyzing big datasets from different sources.
She has testified for Maryland House Bill #951 in support of restaurant hygiene grade cards and served on a
National Academy committee on a study of food safety and other consequences of publishing establishment-specific
data (from USDA).
Phil is an economist specializing in business strategy and data analytics. He is currently a
tenured professor at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, after being a professor at Stanford Graduate School of
Business for 10 years. Ginger and Phillip have published several papers in leading economics journals that study
various aspects of restaurant food safety inspections, including a highly cited paper showing that restaurant
hygiene grade cards cause a reduction in food-related illnesses. Phillip has also completed research on calorie
posting for chain restaurants in New York City and served as a consultant to the New York City health department in
their own online posting of inspection data. Phillip advises startups, is a consultant for eBay and has extensive
experience in custom executive education.
A proud veteran, Enming served two tours in Afghanistan as a U.S. Marine Captain. While overseas,
he led in partnering with NGOs and local Afghan officials to develop infrastructure in Southern Afghanistan. Enming
transitioned to the technology sector after earning his MBA, working in consumer electronics before joining Hazel
Analytics. At Hazel, he engages customers, develops relationships, and ensures the success of clients and
Having led the transition of Hazel Analytics from research project to sustainable commercial venture, Arash is responsible for managing the growth and day-to-day operations of the company. Previously, Arash was a founding member of StudentMentor.org, the first free online mentorship platform for U.S. college students. He also has prior experience as a management consultant with a focus on technology and risk serving Fortune 500s. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science from UCLA Engineering, and a MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
Luke joined the team as a software engineer in the summer of 2014. His programming interests include artificial intelligence, machine learning, and functional programming. He graduated from Cal Poly University, San Luis Obispo with a B.S. in Computer Science. His hobbies include traveling, snowboarding, and camping.
Richard works on the Software Engineering team at Hazel Analytics. His goal is to get food inspection reports standardized in the United States and made available online in easy to consume formats. After that he'll consider a run for president. When Richard isn't programming, he enjoys running, playing basketball, reading, and writing fiction.
Victor joined the team as a software engineer in the fall of 2014. His main professional interests include web development, cloud computing, and programming languages. He graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a B.S. in Software Engineering. His personal interests include music, food, science, and engineering.
Alex is an Assistant Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue
University. While completing his PhD in Computer Science at the University of Maryland, he developed the
architecture that is at the core of our network of scrapers. Those innovations have allowed us to extract
inspection data from over 80 health department web sites, merging a multitude of data formats into a single,
searchable database. Alex continues to aid in steering the growth of the technology behind Hazel's services.
Gentry is on the Data Science team at Hazel and is also a PhD candidate in Economics at the University of Maryland. In addition to his traditional training in econometrics, he has expertise in machine learning and computational methods. Previously, Gentry was a full-time researcher at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business where he worked on large, high-dimensional consumer data as part of the Kilts Center for Marketing. He is passionate about common-sense interpretation of complex economic and statistical modeling, and places enormous value on good data visualization.
Zaki is on the software engineering team at Hazel. His professional interests include machine learning, data mining, and applied mathematics. Outside of work, Zaki enjoys photography, biking, music, and food. He is also currently completing his degree in Computer Science with a Specialization in Data Science at the University of Maryland, College Park.