OC Grand Jury report strongly recommended grading system for restaurants

So was O.C. Supervisor Chris Norby right when he told me today that the current County restaurant inspection system isn’t broke?  I did a bit of digging and found that the Orange County Grand Jury issued a report in August of this year “concluded that the procedure for notifying the public in Orange County about the cleanliness and safety of neighborhood restaurants is almost non-existent.”

The Irvine Center for Public Policy Research wrote a very good summary of the Grand Jury’s report which I am enclosing below:

From the The Orange County Grand Jury’s full report on restaurant inspections titled “Restaurant Inspections – What No One is Telling You”.

The 2007-2008 Orange County Grand Jury concluded that the procedure for notifying the public in Orange County about the cleanliness and safety of neighborhood restaurants is almost non-existent. While exceptionally thorough inspections are conducted by members of the Environmental Health Division of the Orange County Health Care Agency, the results of these inspections are not made directly available to the public. Only a relatively small number of people know of, would take the time to find out, or have the ability to find restaurant inspection results posted online by the Health Care Agency.

While most Orange County residents are in the dark about the quality of their local restaurants, our neighbors to the north, south and east have all implemented an ABC grade-card inspection system informing customers about the cleanliness of the restaurant in which they dine.

Reasons for implementing an ABC grading-card system in Orange County listed in the report include:

  • The U.S. Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recognizes the benefit of an on-site grading system: What can consumers do when they eat in restaurants? – You can protect yourself first by choosing which restaurant to patronize. Restaurants are inspected by the local health department to make sure they are clean and have adequate kitchen facilities. Find out how restaurants did on their most recent inspections, and use that score to help guide your choice.In many jurisdictions, the latest inspection score is posted in the restaurant. Long Beach uses a number grading system. The overall grade along with the descriptions of the violations, such as cockroach infestation or unsanitary food preparation area, must be posted in a window near the entrance to the restaurant.
  • Health conditions in restaurants improve with the use of an ABC grading system that is visible to the public. From 1997-1998 to 2006-2007, the number of restaurants in Los Angeles that received an A grade went from 39.9% to 82.5%; the number of B grade restaurants decreased from 30.9% to 15.5%; those with C grades decreased from 17.6% to 1.8%; those below C decreased from 11.7% to 0.2%.
  • A 2001 survey in Los Angeles County found that 91% of the public liked the grading system; 88% of those surveyed said they would eat at an A-graded restaurant; 25% would eat at a B-graded restaurant; while only 3% would eat at a C-graded restaurant. In 2005, 89% of people surveyed thought that the grading system has been effective in assuring food safety.
  • Restaurants with A grades show an increase in revenue, while those with a C rating lose customers. The National Restaurant News, in a November 2002 article summed up the ABC grading system as follows: The public grading system illustrates both Darwin’s theory of evolution – that is, natural selection or survival of the fittest – and capitalism at its finest. Every operator has the opportunity to win A’s with copious and consistent attention to detail. And every consumer has the opportunity to collect grade information and act on it. Those operators who do not rise to the occasion lose customers.
  • Several periodicals have stated that the arguments against grade posting are without merit and are used primarily to intimidate politicians – from Napa and San Francisco to places as far away as Scotland.28 Even the tiny town of Vidor, Texas recently wrestled with this issue.
  • Many politicians around the country are simply uninformed when it comes to the importance of this issue. They assume, incorrectly, that restaurants will be vicimized when scoes are posted, so they cave in to political pressure from restaurant associations. Never mind that just one instance of poor food handling in a restaurant can make hundreds sick — or even kill people. Never mind that a study by health professionals found that posting grade-cards in restaurants actually reduced the number of food borne illness hospitalizations. And nevermind tha the public has a right to see wha’s going on in restaurant kitchens. Apparently, for many politicians, the restaurant lobby is more important than the average restaurant consumer.

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"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.