County revisiting restaurant grading system

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A committee charged with developing a cleanliness rating system for restaurants in Allegheny County is being reactivated by the county Board of Health.

The move, announced at a board meeting Wednesday, comes one year after board members reversed themselves by scrapping an approved grading proposal following an outcry from prominent local restaurant owners who objected to posting scores on their doors.

Since the plan "got torpedoed" last year, there has been "a renewed interest to revive that effort," board of health Chairman Lee Harrison said.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald "has expressed a lot of interest in moving this forward," Dr. Harrison said after Wednesday's meeting.

"I think it will be good for everyone -- the community and the restaurant industry," said Dr. Harrison, who a year ago was the only board member who argued to save the plan.

Under the current inspection system, county health inspectors record food safety violations but do not give restaurants grades.

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.

During a public hearing last year, several restaurant owners, including Kevin Joyce of The Carlton, Downtown, blasted the A-B-C grading plan as unnecessary and unfair, in part because restaurants in surrounding counties are not subject to grades.

The new committee, which will include representatives from the board of health, the health department's food safety division and the local restaurant industry, will be asked to "tweak" the scuttled proposal and move it forward, Dr. Harrison said. No time frame was set for the committee to report back.

region - health


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