Monday, July 18, 2011

Nadine Kam photo
Hundreds of New York restaurants are dressed in their "A" sanitation grades this summer.

NEW YORK—Throughout the city, restaurants are wearing their sanitation grades, as issued by the New York City Department of Health, in a program instituted last summer.

Restaurateurs had fought the public grading system, but now the city's 24,000-plus restaurants must post placards bearing their A, B or C ratings to announce their cleanliness or lack thereof. The grades cover restaurants, coffee shops, bars, nightclubs, retail bakeries and other fixed-site food stands. They do not cover mobile vendors, temporary establishments, hospitals, schools, non-profit or charitable organizations.

Grades reflect how well a restaurant complies with food safety requirements of the New York City Health Code and the State Sanitary Code. Different violations carry different numbers of points, depending on their nature and severity:

Grade A: 0 to 13 points for sanitary violations.
Grade B: 14 to 27 points for sanitary violations.
Grade C: 28 or more points for sanitary violations.

Violations can range from presence of roaches or rats, cross-contamination in the food-prep area, poor refrigeration, or tobacco use in the food, storage or dishwashing area.

Restaurateurs apparently worried that grading would be followed by public panic and closing of Grade C restaurants, but the health department always had the power to immediately close restaurants with conditions that may be hazardous to public health.

Happily, most of the signs I saw bore A grades. These were followed by Bs and "Grade Pending" signs.

I took "Grade Pending" to mean nothing wrong, the restaurant is awaiting its grade, but reading more about it, I learned that those signs are the result of contested B or C (failing) grade. Restaurants that receive a B or C grade can opt for a second inspection weeks later. In the interim, they can post the "Grade Pending" sign until after their second inspection.

All restaurants are required to post their grades, but I never saw a C the whole time I was there.

You can read more about the grading system and its results at, as well as search for restaurants of interest.

It makes me wonder what would happen if we implemented such a system here.

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