Lousy restaurant grade? Hide it (but don’t get caught)

More than a year after New york City first required restaurants to post Health Department inspection grades, some owners of Greenwich Village eateries are doing their best to hide less than perfect ratings.

Andrea Swalec of DNAinfo writes that Famous Ray’s Pizza of Greenwich Village racked up 54 violation points in a June 7 health inspection, but its posted C grade — the lowest mark a restaurant can get without being shut down — was nearly impossible to see when DNAinfo looked for it last week.

Only a pale outline of a C, which is usually bright gold, was visible at the Sixth Avenue pizzeria, at 11th Street.

"Why does it matter?" a Famous Ray’s manager who would not identify himself said by phone when DNAinfo called to ask why the sign wasn’t clearer.

Health Department rules require grade signs to be posted "on a front window, door or outside wall where it is easily seen by people passing by." The card must be placed within five feet of the entrance, from four to six feet off the ground.

The pizza joint was inspected again Aug. 11 and received 26 violation points — which earns it a B grade.

However, its offenses include "evidence of mice or live mice present in facility’s food and/or non-food areas," according to city Health Department restaurant inspection data.

At the Subway sandwich shop at 315 Sixth Avenue, DNAinfo noticed on Aug. 8 that its C grade was posted on an easy-to-miss side window, between bright promotional signs.

Subway moved the sign to the shop’s door after a reporter pointed out its placement.

"We have moved it. Thanks for letting us know," manager Mohammed Mazar said when asked to comment on the sign.

The sandwich shop was cited for evidence of mice, improper sanitation of food preparation surfaces and not keeping cold foods cold enough, records show.

The Health Department has issued 123 violations to restaurants that did not place grade signs in the required locations, according to a department report on the first year of the grading system.

Rule-breakers can be fined as much as $1,000 for a first offense and $2,000 for subsequent offenses.

Nearly 90 percent of New Yorkers surveyed in July by Baruch College said they considered restaurant grades when deciding where to eat.

Communication: the basics are sometime the best

With all the fancy iPhone apps and text notifications and Intertube what-have-youse, sometimes the basics work better.

CBC News reports fishermen in P.E.I. (that’s in Canada) say government emails and web postings don’t compare to flags in the water when it comes to warning them about high bacteria levels in shellfish.

The shellfishery in Charlottetown Harbour was closed on several occasions this summer when heavy rains caused the sewer system to overflow, creating high bacteria levels. Fishermen complained they weren’t getting adequate warning of the closures, which would enable them to harvest oysters and mussels ahead of the storm.

As Hurricane Earl made its way toward the Maritimes last month, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency emailed people in the shellfish industry. It warned the storm could bring heavy rains and lead to closures.

John White, a policy officer with CFIA, told CBC News this was the last time such a warning would be issued. CFIA is opting for posting a notice on its website telling the industry that fishers are responsible for checking the forecast.

The P.E.I. Shellfish Association suggests putting yellow warning flags in the water when there’s a possible closure and a red one when the fishery is shut down.

Just like a red or yellow or green sign on a restaurant. Because who wants to check a web site when you just want to grab a meal?

Brisbane restaurants fined $338,000 for breaches

The Courier-Mail reports more than 14 Brisbane (that’s in Australia) food businesses have been prosecuted by Brisbane City Council and fined a total of $338,000 for breaching food safety and hygiene standards during the past 13 months.

Photographs taken inside some Brisbane businesses during snap inspections by council officers revealed messy work benches, cobwebs, rusty pipes, dirty utensils and dead rodents in traps.

One South Brisbane restaurant was fined $22,000 in July after it was found guilty of six breaches of the Food Act.

The findings come as council finishes inspecting the last of Brisbane’s eateries in preparation for the launch of its Eat Safe food rating program.

From November, the city’s food businesses will voluntarily place ratings from two to five stars in their windows, under the scheme first revealed by The Courier-Mail in February.

So far, 4028 businesses have been inspected in preparation for the launch.

About 2504 received a rating of three stars or more and 1524 businesses scored two stars or less.

Of those, 493 businesses received a poor rating because they did not have a nominated food safety supervisor.

Eat Safe Brisbane will award five stars for excellent compliance with the state’s Food Act and Food Safety Standards.