New York City celebrates cleaner restaurants after five years of letter grading

Restaurants are performing better and are cleaner than ever according to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Recent data provided by the Health Department states that today, nearly 95 percent of all New York City restaurants now post an A grade and over 60 percent earn an A on their initial inspection.

“Over the last five years, restaurant letter grading has successfully motivated restaurants to practice better food safety,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett. “You see this as you walk down any street in the city. The large number of A grades that are proudly displayed means that restaurants are attaining excellent compliance with food safety regulations, which has reduced the likelihood of foodborne illness and made dining out safer for all New Yorkers.”

Since the program’s implementation in July of 2010, positive impacts have been reported in restaurant hygiene, food-safety practices and public awareness. The number of critical violations has also decreased within the past five years and more restaurant supervisors now complete the City DOH’s food protection course.

“New York’s restaurant grading program is a phenomenal success,” said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Most importantly, it has prevented illnesses caused by Salmonella, but it has also saved restaurants money. Clearly, every city and state in the country should implement such a program.”

When restaurants earn an A grade at the beginning of an inspection cycle, it means that they are not subject to fines and are only inspected once a year, according to the city DOH. Additionally, 58 percent of restaurants scoring in the B range on their initial inspection, now earn an A upon re-inspection—a 38 percent improvement from the first year of letter grading.

The improvements, according to the City DOH, are a result of better food safety practices.

“Restaurants have risen to the challenge posed by the grading system and are producing safer meals,” said Marion Nestle, Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies and Public Health at New York University. “Congratulations to the program on its fifth anniversary. Restaurant grading is doing exactly what it is supposed to do: improving food safety practices in New York restaurants and making them safer for all of their customers.”

The Health Department reports that since the grading program has been in place, restaurants have seen a 24 percent decline in Salmonella cases, an 18 percent decrease in evidence of mice, and a steady decline in other critical safety areas like inadequate hand washing facilities, foods kept at the wrong temperature, inadequate worker hygiene and unsanitary equipment.


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