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Health Dept. To Test New Letter Grading System For Restaurants

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The Allegheny County Health Department board has approved plans to move forward requesting public comment on plans to implement a restaurant grading system and a pilot program by summer.

But the board made changes to its original proposal.

Glenda Christy, from the Health Department's Food Safety Division explained that restaurant owners, at least early on, will get a chance to improve before a lower grade is posted on their establishment.

"There will not be a grade posted on the facility the first time unless it's an A," she said. "The inspection, however, will be posted online. And if the facility is not an A, there will be a scheduled re-inspection. At the time of the re-inspection, they will then make the inspection and post the appropriate grade."

But John Graf, a former president of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, is concerned that plans are moving forward too quickly.

"There is a taste in my mouth that there's a train moving along here that they don't want to stop," he said. "And I think it is moving along a little fast."

The grades are based on deductions from 100 depending on the infraction - 90-100 gets an A, 80-89 gets a B and 70-79 gets a C.

Anything below a C requires enforcement action.

But while reformers think restaurants have nothing to worry about if they are consistent in their health practices, some in the industry think establishments can be penalized for months because of a bad day.

"It's just all kind of picked out of a barrel and that's the concern we have with the grading system as a process, that it's arbitrary," says Graf. "It's a snapshot in time, it stays around for a year and it's not really communicative of the safety of a restaurant throughout the year because it's just one little slice of time."

As a result of Wednesday's action, a pilot test program could be in place by July or August and the whole plan could be in place by late fall.

Health Department Approves First Steps For Restaurant Grading System (3/3/14)
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