Food for thought: The county’s grading system will aid consumers

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The Allegheny County Health Department has worked out the details of its restaurant grading system, which will give consumers easy-to-understand information about cleanliness and food safety at restaurants, snack bars and other establishments.

Starting next week, when the county will post the information on its website, the public will have one last chance to comment before a six-week pilot program this summer. 

If county council then approves the plan, establishments will receive letter grades based on health department inspections — 90 to 100 points for an A, 80 to 89 a B, 70 to 79 a C and anything less, the subject of either a consumer alert or closure.

Restaurant owners complain that this plan is simplistic and unfair because the inspections are a mere snapshot of their compliance with regulations, but the improved version of the plan gives them ample opportunity for redress. They will get a second chance if they score below an A and, if they wish to pay $150, they can receive a follow-up review.

Allegheny County has waited a long time for a clear grading program, in contrast to online reports that are difficult to interpret. A similar approach is used elsewhere and it can work here. After all, nothing distinguishes restaurants here from their peers elsewhere, except perhaps french fries on sandwiches and salads.

Meet the Editorial Board.


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