Forum

Pittsburgh restaurant grades promote health

Allegheny County’s Health Department is developing and considering implementing A-B-C restaurant grades for health inspections. A pilot program for this system was implemented over the summer and opened for public comment. If this program were adopted, Pittsburgh would join cities such as New York and Los Angeles in providing a clearer indication for consumers as to the cleanliness of the restaurants they dine at.

The current form of this proposal would have health inspectors grade restaurants out of a score of 100, with deductions being made for violations. The letter grades would be assigned on a standard academic scale, where a 90 and above would be an A, an 80 and above would be awarded a B, and so on. Any grade below a C would be subject to Health Department enforcement actions.

If an inspected restaurant is not awarded an A during their first inspection, the grade will not be posted on the front of the restaurant’s facility, but will be available online. A re-inspection will then be scheduled, after which the second awarded grade will be posted on the restaurant’s exterior.

The awarding of letter grades would provide an incentive for restaurants to improve their cleanliness. Before, a restaurant would only need to pass a health inspection to stay open for business. However, with customers likely being deterred from eating somewhere with a lower letter grade, there is the added incentive for additional improvements to the condition and sanitation of eating establishments.

While the owners of some restaurants are objecting to the proposal, the benefits to consumers and the public through decreased instances of food illness would very much outweigh any additional costs borne by the restaurant owners.

Last week, the legislation was referred to committee within the Pittsburgh city government, and it looks as if it will pass. This measure will go a long way toward protecting public health and ensuring that consumers are being served food in a clean environment.