Not should restaurants make health inspection grades visible, but what is the best way?

Tomorrow’s USA Today asks, should restaurants make health inspection grades visible?


And we’re looking at trying to make such disclosure more effective, efficient and fair.

Robert Pestronk, executive director of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told USA Today a growing number of health departments across the U.S. are initiating programs aimed at improving the transparency of restaurant inspections, and that many health departments are putting information online, and others are placing scores — in the form of letter grades, numerical scores or color-coded decals — in plain sight at restaurants.

The story also cites a study in June’s Journal of Food Protection which suggests cross-contamination violations — which can lead to illnesses — may be more widespread than previously thought, and they may occur more frequently during peak hours.

Researchers from North Carolina State University used video cameras to monitor 47 food handlers at eight volunteering kitchens and found that the workers committed an average of one cross-contamination violation an hour.

"It really changes how we think about training," says Ben Chapman, the lead author of the study and assistant professor and food safety specialist in the Department of 4-H Youth Development and Family & Consumer Sciences at NCSU. Researchers from Kansas State University and the University of Guelph in Ontario co-wrote the study.

I’m not sure what that study had to do with disclosure, but we have other projects which are directly related to disclosure.

Katie Filion, a master’s student in biomedical science at Kansas State University has just returned from a year researching New Zealand’s options for a national food business or restaurant hygiene grading system.

Filion said,

“No one has determined the most effective way to present inspection results to the public but a good system has several characteristics. It should have clear guidelines about what earns a good or bad grade and should communicate to diners the risk of eating at a particular restaurant."??

??Filion, K. and Powell, D.A. 2009. The use of restaurant inspection disclosure systems as a means of communicating food safety information. Journal of Foodservice 20: 287-297.


The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30% of individuals in developed countries become ill from food or water each year. Up to 70% of these illnesses are estimated to be linked to food prepared at foodservice establishments. Consumer confidence in the safety of food prepared in restaurants is fragile, varying significantly from year to year, with many consumers attributing foodborne illness to foodservice. One of the key drivers of restaurant choice is consumer perception of the hygiene of a restaurant. Restaurant hygiene information is something consumers desire, and when available, may use to make dining decisions.