Restaurant grade display plans moving forward

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A committee working on a plan to start grading county restaurants expects to have a proposal ready for the Allegheny County Board of Health within the next six to 12 months, board Chairman Lee Harrison said Wednesday.

Dr. Harrison -- who heads the committee composed of representatives of the Allegheny County Health Department, the board of health and the restaurant industry -- said the idea of giving restaurants A-B-C letter grades based on their annual inspections is strongly supported by county Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Plans call for testing any grading system in the field before presenting it to board members for their approval, Dr. Harrison told the board. The plan would then go to Allegheny County Council for its consideration.

Supporters of restaurant grades, including the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest, say the specter of having to hang a poor grade in the window is an effective way to spur restaurants to act quickly to fix serious health code violations. New York City launched a grading program for its some 24,000 eating establishments in 2010.

Under Allegheny County's current inspection system, health inspectors record food safety violations but do not give restaurants grades.

The board of health unanimously approved a restaurant grading plan in January 2011 but scuttled it seven months later after prominent local restaurant owners opposed it.

That proposal also was criticized by the Center for Science in the Public Interest as being too easy on restaurants.

To read inspection reports for county restaurants, visit http://webapps.achd.net/Restaurant.

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Patricia Sabatini: psabatini@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3066.


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