PENNSYLVANIA: Allegheny County to rank eateries' safety
Posted: January 14th, 2011 - 11:27am
Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The Allegheny County Board of Health on Wednesday unanimously approved tentative food safety guidelines that will include a numeric-scoring system to give customers a sense of how clean kitchens are when they go out to eat.
"This will allow people to see exactly what the inspector saw," said Paul M. King, chairman of the board.
The regulations will require posting inspection scores online and, eventually, on a placard inside the business.
A 60-day public comment period begins Monday; the board must approve a final draft before the regulations go into effect.
The Health Department's Food Safety Division conducts annual inspections and investigates complaints at about 9,000 food establishments in the county, including street vendors, restaurants, hospitals and cafeterias.
The rating system would start at 100 and subtract points based on the seriousness of violations. Inspectors would deduct three points for "major violations" like cooking food to inadequate temperatures or if food was prepared by an employee with an exposed and infected wound; 0.5 to 1.5 points would be deducted for lesser violations, like not using a thermometer to monitor food temperatures.
Although it would be possible for a business to rack up three major violations and still receive an A, Dr. Lee Harrison, vice president of the board, said a top grade is not likely to happen because restaurants with major violations also would have minor ones.
"We're all doing our best to come up with a system that protects public health, and we're still tweaking it," Harrison said.
The Health Department issued letter grades beginning in the 1970s but changed to a pass/fail system in 1994 because restaurants complained that the system was unfair.
Restaurant owners said the new system could improve the overall cleanliness of restaurants countywide, but they don't think customers would look up the scores before going out.