Dining: Restaurants Need Food Safety Letter Grades, Says CSPI
Inspection Reports Hard to Find in Many Cities
August 7, 2008
Source of Article: http://cspinet.org/new/200808071.html
Today CSPI, the nonprofit nutrition and food-safety watchdog group, is
calling on state and local governments to require restaurants to display food
safety letter grades in their front windows. Letter grades have been used in
Over 40 percent of the outbreaks of foodborne illness were linked to restaurant foods, while only 22 percent were linked to food prepared in private homes, according to CSPI’s Outbreak Alert! database. CSPI’s new review of restaurant inspection reports—which typically covered 6- or 12-month periods—found that 26 percent of restaurants surveyed had contaminated food contact surfaces; 22 percent had improper food holding temperatures, and 16 percent had inadequate hand-washing by employees. Thirteen percent of restaurants had rodent or insect activity documented in their inspection reports.
"A letter grade in the window has proven to be one of the most powerful incentives for restaurants to perform well on inspections," said CSPI staff attorney Sarah A. Klein. "Who wants to eat at a 'C' restaurant if a restaurant next door gets an 'A'? Unfortunately, in many of the cities we looked at, not only are there are no letter grades, but the actual inspection reports are nearly impossible for citizens to obtain or understand."
CSPI began its review by asking 20 cities for 30 inspection reports each,
distributed among equal numbers of high-end, medium-range, and fast-food
restaurants. CSPI then ranked the cities by assigning a weighted score
depending on the severity of the violations it found.
Though rats and roaches are the most unappetizing violations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counts improper holding temperatures, lack of hand washing, improper cooking, contaminated surfaces, and unsafe food sources as the top disease-related factors. Improper hand washing, which might be indicated by a lack of hot water at a sink, can spread Hepatitis A, Shigella, or norovirus to diners. Foods not held at the proper temperature can foster the growth of dangerous bacteria such as Clostridium perfringen or Staphylococus aureus. Salmonella or E. Coli O157:H7 can sicken diners when meat or poultry is undercooked, or when raw foods are placed on unclean food surfaces.
"The results of our grading system in
Besides recommending that cities and states adopt the posting of inspection grades, CSPI says the Food and Drug Administration should revise its model food code to include easy-to-understand inspection forms and grading cards. State and local governments use the model food code as the basis for their restaurant inspection practices.
"Americans are eating outside the home and entrusting their health to restaurant workers more than ever before," said Klein. "We want to work with state legislators, city councilors, and public health officials around the country to implement these consumer-friendly letter grades. They’d go a long way toward preventing unnecessary illnesses."
For more information on restaurant grading click here.
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