Archive for the ‘Food hazard’ Category

Making the food inspection grade in New York

July 18th, 2011

Nadine Kam photo

Hundreds of New York restaurants are dressed in their “A” sanitation grades this summer.

NEW YORK—Throughout the city, restaurants are wearing their sanitation grades, as issued by the New York City Department of Health, in a program instituted last summer.

Restaurateurs had fought the public grading system, but now the city’s 24,000-plus restaurants must post placards bearing their A, B or C ratings to announce their cleanliness or lack thereof. The grades cover restaurants, coffee shops, bars, nightclubs, retail bakeries and other fixed-site food stands. They do not cover mobile vendors, temporary establishments, hospitals, schools, non-profit or charitable organizations.

Grades reflect how well a restaurant complies with food safety requirements of the New York City Health Code and the State Sanitary Code. Different violations carry different numbers of points, depending on their nature and severity:

Grade A: 0 to 13 points for sanitary violations.
Grade B: 14 to 27 points for sanitary violations.
Grade C: 28 or more points for sanitary violations.

Violations can range from presence of roaches or rats, cross-contamination in the food-prep area, poor refrigeration, or tobacco use in the food, storage or dishwashing area.

Restaurateurs apparently worried that grading would be followed by public panic and closing of Grade C restaurants, but the health department always had the power to  immediately close restaurants with conditions that may be hazardous to public health.

Happily, most of the signs I saw bore A grades. These were followed by Bs and “Grade Pending” signs.

I took “Grade Pending” to mean nothing wrong, the restaurant is awaiting its grade, but reading more about it, I learned that those signs are the result of contested B or C (failing) grade. Restaurants that receive a B or C grade can opt for a second inspection weeks later. In the interim, they can post the “Grade Pending” sign until after their second inspection.

All restaurants are required to post their grades, but I never saw a C the whole time I was there.

You can read more about the grading system and its results at, as well as search for restaurants of interest.

It makes me wonder what would happen if we implemented such a system here.


Added Aug. 4, 2011:

Here are a few more fascinating links on the fallout from the program:

Felix TV: Do you want real food or clean food?

The microeconomics of letter grades

Recall warning

March 17th, 2010

The USDA Food  Safety and Inspection Service continues to issue food-product recalls due to a flavor enhancer that may be contaminated with salmonella. The recalls began last month after the discovery of the contamination at a hydrolyzed vegetable protein plant operated by Basic Food Flavors Inc. of Las Vegas.

No illnesses have yet been tied to the product, but the recalls are a preemptive strike. I’m not sure which products are in Hawaii, but the 15-page list of recalled products is so extensive it would be wise to check your cupboards for likely products subject to the Class I High Risk recall.

Mentioned in news stories earlier were Tim’s Cascade Snacks Hawaiian Kettle Style Potato Chips-Sweet Maui Onion in  1- to 32-ounce bags with code dates MAR 09 10 up to and including JUN 07, as well as Tim’s Cascade Snacks Hawaiian Sweet Maui Onion Rings in .75 grams to 42-ounce bags with code dates MAR 23 10 and all dates up to JUN 21.

Also affected, Trader Joe’s 12-ounce Organic Creamy Ranch Dressing with  JUN 13 10 expiration, and various Reser’s Ranch House dressings and dips, as well as various McCormick’s gravy and dip mixes, and Safeway Honey Mustard Nugget and Honey Mustard Onion Nugget snacks.

Go to the site for the complete list of products and to keep up with the latest information.