Restaurants and markets that are shut down for vermin infestations, sewage problems or for a lack of water will no longer be able to receive an A health grade in Los Angeles County under a stricter grading system to be implemented over the next year.
Stephanie K. Baer of The San Gabriel Valley Tribune reports Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials outlined a new way restaurant inspectors will deduct points when assigning A, B and C health grades in a report submitted to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors late Thursday.
Currently, a restaurant can receive an A letter grade even when it is ordered closed or when two major violations, such as unsafe food temperatures, are observed because major violations only cost food facilities four points out of a possible 100 points.
Under the new point deduction system, which will be enforced sometime in early 2017, any time a restaurant is closed for a cockroach, rodent or fly infestation, sewage problems, or for not having any water running through the facility, it will lose an additional seven points for the closure. Any time two major health hazards, such as unsafe food temperatures, are observed, the facility will lose an additional three points in their inspection score.
If a restaurant is closed and is also marked down for two major health code violations, it will only lose the seven points for the closure.
“It’s important for the credibility of the program,” said Terri Williams, acting director of the county Department of Public Health’s environmental health division, referring to the changes. “You want the public to know when they go into a restaurant that has an A in the window that the restaurant truly earned that A.”
The recommendations were proposed after a Southern California News Group review of nearly two years of restaurant inspection data found the county’s grading system allows many restaurants and markets to operate with major health threats and gives those facilities high health grades.
Thursday’s report is the eighth and final progress report on the implementation of those recommendations.
Fred Leaf, health deputy for Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who requested the department review the grading system, said the changes make the letter grades more meaningful and reflective of restaurants’ health and cleanliness.
Leaf added that the recommendations also highlighted the importance of regularly evaluating the program.
The widely-emulated letter grading system has gone largely unchanged since 1998 when Antonovich first proposed notifying the public about sanitary conditions in food establishments.
As part of the changes, the county will also begin issuing new health grade cards this summer that will show the public the date of a food facility’s last graded inspection. Later on, a QR code will be added to the cards to provide more information about facilities’ inspection history.