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Chile pepper grower seeks support for improved grades and standards for category

A Florida-based grower-shipper of chile peppers is lobbying the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Division to establish a USDA Grade and Delivery standard for the category, positing that it will benefit the industry at large.IMG 3585

Steve Veneziano, vice president of sales and operations for Oakes Farms, based in Immokalee, FL, said the company grades its own chile peppers as everyone else does Bell peppers, with grades of Fancy, No. 1 and No. 2 quality. He believes that if all shippers followed similar guidelines, the chile pepper category would benefit.

“With no grade contract established, the chile pepper category is fairly stagnant because they don’t have the proper sell-through, they have a lot of shrink, and produce managers don’t want to merchandise them because it’s a high-shrink category,” he said. “And especially during transitional times, some shippers mix No. 2s and poor-quality peppers in the box and they get away with it. Having a grade contract would eliminate that and help the entire industry. The chile pepper category has evolved tremendously over the past five years, and this is what it needs to continue moving forward.”

Veneziano said he recently contacted Jeffrey Davis, business development specialist with the USDA’s specialty crop program, who confirmed that grades and standards currently exist only for sweet peppers, and was told he would need to drum up support from the industry to move forward with his petition.

John Guerra, head of Eastern vegetable sales for S. Katzman Produce in the Bronx, NY, said he is in “100 percent in support of the petition.”

Guerra said the lack of quality standards for various hot peppers has really affected what the consumer thinks a hot pepper or varietal pepper should look like because there is very little restriction.

“Particularly from a terminal market point of view, on a tightly allocated market, everything goes into a box without any consideration on quality or grading, and you pass this along to a consumer who is expecting a certain quality, and it is frustrating,” said Guerra. “We went through a winter of some very unusual weather patterns in Florida, which created some limited availability. While many other grower-shippers were putting anything and everything into a box, Steve was separating them and giving us differentiated product. I feel very lucky that we had Oakes in our portfolio. It’s all about integrity, and Oakes is upholding something that isn’t being followed by all of the industry.”

Guerra said he would be interested in petitioning USDA in support of this movement.

Alan Goldberg, owner of A&B Tropical Produce in Miami, is another proponent of the concept, stating it is “long overdue” to have grading standards for the chile pepper industry.

“When issues come up, there needs to be something solid that people can rely on,” said Goldberg. “The chile pepper category is a growing category and the industry needs this. Really, every item should have a grade standard.”

Asked what benefit the grading standards would bring to the chile pepper industry, Goldberg said, “I think it will create confidence all across the board with both buyers and sellers, who will feel better that there is some protection down the line when it comes to settling disputes. It will limit the grey area. To me, anyone not in favor of implementing grade standards is unscrupulous. Why wouldn’t you want law and order?”

Goldberg said that he, too, is planning to contact USDA in support of this initiative. “I’ll do whatever I can to help promote this situation,” he said.

The Produce News | Today’s Headlines – The Produce News – Covering fresh produce around the globe since 1897.

Restaurant Inspections With Letter Grades Debut in Colorado

The letter grade system for reporting restaurant inspection results most associated with New York City has reached Colorado.

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term liberal billionaire mayor, first imposed an A-to-F posted grading system on Big Apple restaurants in 2010. Before Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, his letter grade system was being heralded as a major accomplishment of his 12-year tenure. It was being copied as far away as Florida, and public awareness in New York spread quickly by New Yorkers using apps to locate restaurants with A and B ratings.

Without warning or fanfare, letter grading has arrived in Colorado through a somewhat unlikely jurisdiction — conservative Weld County. It’s upset the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and left the state’s public health community a bit perplexed.

In a sense, what Weld County did was pretty simple. It did not change how restaurant inspections are scored and will continue using the same system with points assigned to a violation that Colorado restaurant inspections have been using since the 1990s.

Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), explains that the 1990s system is coming in for review.

“The department, in coordination with our local public health partners, is reviewing and considering revisions to our current ratings guidance,” Salley told Food Safety News. “Considerations include weighing the prevalence of the violation with the establishment and what mechanism is best to communicate these findings to the consumer.”

What Weld County did do is replace the adjectives: excellent, good, fair, poor and unacceptable, with A-to-F letter grades. Jeff Lawrence, who heads CDPHE’s environmental health and sustainability division, wants Weld County to at least keep the excellent, good, fair, and unacceptable ratings in parentheses, along with the letter grades, so there is consistency among all 35 local jurisdictions in Colorado doing restaurant inspections.

Bloomberg’s letter grade system was credited for its popularity with New Yorkers but also for its claims of having reduced incidents of foodborne illness. However, there are some doubts about that in Colorado.

“We know that CRA and the NRA (National Restaurant Association) have expressed concerns about the use and value of letter grades and that nationally there are other methods used by other regulatory agencies,” Lawrence notes. “These differing views and differing methods create that debate.”

Four years ago, Denver Environmental Health required restaurants with repeat violations to post those notices on their doors until corrections were made. CRA members hated the practice so much that they agreed to pay higher (some say much higher) fines for less public attention. It still requires public postings when a restaurant is closed for imminent health hazards or if one is found guilty in court of violating a health code.

Danica Lee, manager of Denver’s food safety section, says that violation data show lower rates of violation per inspection since the 2011 changes were made.

“There are no plans at this time to move to a letter rating system,” Lee says. “Some of the challenges with establishing rating systems include fairly reflecting a facility’s severity of violations as well as compliance history over multiple inspections.

Lee, however, adds that nothing is “off the table” and the department continuously evaluates the efficacy of the existing system for communicating with consumers. Denver restaurant inspection reports with inspector notes are available on the city’s website.”

Weld County is a 4,001-square-mile area south of the Wyoming-Colorado border and north of Denver International Airport. It is among the richest agricultural counties and most productive oil and gas areas in the U.S.  It plans on doing 2,650 food establishment inspections in 2015.

Food Safety News

Restaurant Inspections With Letter Grades Debut in Colorado

The letter grade system for reporting restaurant inspection results most associated with New York City has reached Colorado.

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term liberal billionaire mayor, first imposed an A-to-F posted grading system on Big Apple restaurants in 2010. Before Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, his letter grade system was being heralded as a major accomplishment of his 12-year tenure. It was being copied as far away as Florida, and public awareness in New York spread quickly by New Yorkers using apps to locate restaurants with A and B ratings.

Without warning or fanfare, letter grading has arrived in Colorado through a somewhat unlikely jurisdiction — conservative Weld County. It’s upset the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and left the state’s public health community a bit perplexed.

In a sense, what Weld County did was pretty simple. It did not change how restaurant inspections are scored and will continue using the same system with points assigned to a violation that Colorado restaurant inspections have been using since the 1990s.

Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), explains that the 1990s system is coming in for review.

“The department, in coordination with our local public health partners, is reviewing and considering revisions to our current ratings guidance,” Salley told Food Safety News. “Considerations include weighing the prevalence of the violation with the establishment and what mechanism is best to communicate these findings to the consumer.”

What Weld County did do is replace the adjectives: excellent, good, fair, poor and unacceptable, with A-to-F letter grades. Jeff Lawrence, who heads CDPHE’s environmental health and sustainability division, wants Weld County to at least keep the excellent, good, fair, and unacceptable ratings in parentheses, along with the letter grades, so there is consistency among all 35 local jurisdictions in Colorado doing restaurant inspections.

Bloomberg’s letter grade system was credited for its popularity with New Yorkers but also for its claims of having reduced incidents of foodborne illness. However, there are some doubts about that in Colorado.

“We know that CRA and the NRA (National Restaurant Association) have expressed concerns about the use and value of letter grades and that nationally there are other methods used by other regulatory agencies,” Lawrence notes. “These differing views and differing methods create that debate.”

Four years ago, Denver Environmental Health required restaurants with repeat violations to post those notices on their doors until corrections were made. CRA members hated the practice so much that they agreed to pay higher (some say much higher) fines for less public attention. It still requires public postings when a restaurant is closed for imminent health hazards or if one is found guilty in court of violating a health code.

Danica Lee, manager of Denver’s food safety section, says that violation data show lower rates of violation per inspection since the 2011 changes were made.

“There are no plans at this time to move to a letter rating system,” Lee says. “Some of the challenges with establishing rating systems include fairly reflecting a facility’s severity of violations as well as compliance history over multiple inspections.

Lee, however, adds that nothing is “off the table” and the department continuously evaluates the efficacy of the existing system for communicating with consumers. Denver restaurant inspection reports with inspector notes are available on the city’s website.”

Weld County is a 4,001-square-mile area south of the Wyoming-Colorado border and north of Denver International Airport. It is among the richest agricultural counties and most productive oil and gas areas in the U.S.  It plans on doing 2,650 food establishment inspections in 2015.

Food Safety News

Restaurant Inspections With Letter Grades Debut in Colorado

The letter grade system for reporting restaurant inspection results most associated with New York City has reached Colorado.

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term liberal billionaire mayor, first imposed an A-to-F posted grading system on Big Apple restaurants in 2010. Before Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, his letter grade system was being heralded as a major accomplishment of his 12-year tenure. It was being copied as far away as Florida, and public awareness in New York spread quickly by New Yorkers using apps to locate restaurants with A and B ratings.

Without warning or fanfare, letter grading has arrived in Colorado through a somewhat unlikely jurisdiction — conservative Weld County. It’s upset the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and left the state’s public health community a bit perplexed.

In a sense, what Weld County did was pretty simple. It did not change how restaurant inspections are scored and will continue using the same system with points assigned to a violation that Colorado restaurant inspections have been using since the 1990s.

Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), explains that the 1990s system is coming in for review.

“The department, in coordination with our local public health partners, is reviewing and considering revisions to our current ratings guidance,” Salley told Food Safety News. “Considerations include weighing the prevalence of the violation with the establishment and what mechanism is best to communicate these findings to the consumer.”

What Weld County did do is replace the adjectives: excellent, good, fair, poor and unacceptable, with A-to-F letter grades. Jeff Lawrence, who heads CDPHE’s environmental health and sustainability division, wants Weld County to at least keep the excellent, good, fair, and unacceptable ratings in parentheses, along with the letter grades, so there is consistency among all 35 local jurisdictions in Colorado doing restaurant inspections.

Bloomberg’s letter grade system was credited for its popularity with New Yorkers but also for its claims of having reduced incidents of foodborne illness. However, there are some doubts about that in Colorado.

“We know that CRA and the NRA (National Restaurant Association) have expressed concerns about the use and value of letter grades and that nationally there are other methods used by other regulatory agencies,” Lawrence notes. “These differing views and differing methods create that debate.”

Four years ago, Denver Environmental Health required restaurants with repeat violations to post those notices on their doors until corrections were made. CRA members hated the practice so much that they agreed to pay higher (some say much higher) fines for less public attention. It still requires public postings when a restaurant is closed for imminent health hazards or if one is found guilty in court of violating a health code.

Danica Lee, manager of Denver’s food safety section, says that violation data show lower rates of violation per inspection since the 2011 changes were made.

“There are no plans at this time to move to a letter rating system,” Lee says. “Some of the challenges with establishing rating systems include fairly reflecting a facility’s severity of violations as well as compliance history over multiple inspections.

Lee, however, adds that nothing is “off the table” and the department continuously evaluates the efficacy of the existing system for communicating with consumers. Denver restaurant inspection reports with inspector notes are available on the city’s website.”

Weld County is a 4,001-square-mile area south of the Wyoming-Colorado border and north of Denver International Airport. It is among the richest agricultural counties and most productive oil and gas areas in the U.S.  It plans on doing 2,650 food establishment inspections in 2015.

Food Safety News

Restaurant Inspections With Letter Grades Debut in Colorado

The letter grade system for reporting restaurant inspection results most associated with New York City has reached Colorado.

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term liberal billionaire mayor, first imposed an A-to-F posted grading system on Big Apple restaurants in 2010. Before Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, his letter grade system was being heralded as a major accomplishment of his 12-year tenure. It was being copied as far away as Florida, and public awareness in New York spread quickly by New Yorkers using apps to locate restaurants with A and B ratings.

Without warning or fanfare, letter grading has arrived in Colorado through a somewhat unlikely jurisdiction — conservative Weld County. It’s upset the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and left the state’s public health community a bit perplexed.

In a sense, what Weld County did was pretty simple. It did not change how restaurant inspections are scored and will continue using the same system with points assigned to a violation that Colorado restaurant inspections have been using since the 1990s.

Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), explains that the 1990s system is coming in for review.

“The department, in coordination with our local public health partners, is reviewing and considering revisions to our current ratings guidance,” Salley told Food Safety News. “Considerations include weighing the prevalence of the violation with the establishment and what mechanism is best to communicate these findings to the consumer.”

What Weld County did do is replace the adjectives: excellent, good, fair, poor and unacceptable, with A-to-F letter grades. Jeff Lawrence, who heads CDPHE’s environmental health and sustainability division, wants Weld County to at least keep the excellent, good, fair, and unacceptable ratings in parentheses, along with the letter grades, so there is consistency among all 35 local jurisdictions in Colorado doing restaurant inspections.

Bloomberg’s letter grade system was credited for its popularity with New Yorkers but also for its claims of having reduced incidents of foodborne illness. However, there are some doubts about that in Colorado.

“We know that CRA and the NRA (National Restaurant Association) have expressed concerns about the use and value of letter grades and that nationally there are other methods used by other regulatory agencies,” Lawrence notes. “These differing views and differing methods create that debate.”

Four years ago, Denver Environmental Health required restaurants with repeat violations to post those notices on their doors until corrections were made. CRA members hated the practice so much that they agreed to pay higher (some say much higher) fines for less public attention. It still requires public postings when a restaurant is closed for imminent health hazards or if one is found guilty in court of violating a health code.

Danica Lee, manager of Denver’s food safety section, says that violation data show lower rates of violation per inspection since the 2011 changes were made.

“There are no plans at this time to move to a letter rating system,” Lee says. “Some of the challenges with establishing rating systems include fairly reflecting a facility’s severity of violations as well as compliance history over multiple inspections.

Lee, however, adds that nothing is “off the table” and the department continuously evaluates the efficacy of the existing system for communicating with consumers. Denver restaurant inspection reports with inspector notes are available on the city’s website.”

Weld County is a 4,001-square-mile area south of the Wyoming-Colorado border and north of Denver International Airport. It is among the richest agricultural counties and most productive oil and gas areas in the U.S.  It plans on doing 2,650 food establishment inspections in 2015.

Food Safety News

Restaurant Inspections With Letter Grades Debut in Colorado

The letter grade system for reporting restaurant inspection results most associated with New York City has reached Colorado.

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term liberal billionaire mayor, first imposed an A-to-F posted grading system on Big Apple restaurants in 2010. Before Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, his letter grade system was being heralded as a major accomplishment of his 12-year tenure. It was being copied as far away as Florida, and public awareness in New York spread quickly by New Yorkers using apps to locate restaurants with A and B ratings.

Without warning or fanfare, letter grading has arrived in Colorado through a somewhat unlikely jurisdiction — conservative Weld County. It’s upset the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and left the state’s public health community a bit perplexed.

In a sense, what Weld County did was pretty simple. It did not change how restaurant inspections are scored and will continue using the same system with points assigned to a violation that Colorado restaurant inspections have been using since the 1990s.

Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), explains that the 1990s system is coming in for review.

“The department, in coordination with our local public health partners, is reviewing and considering revisions to our current ratings guidance,” Salley told Food Safety News. “Considerations include weighing the prevalence of the violation with the establishment and what mechanism is best to communicate these findings to the consumer.”

What Weld County did do is replace the adjectives: excellent, good, fair, poor and unacceptable, with A-to-F letter grades. Jeff Lawrence, who heads CDPHE’s environmental health and sustainability division, wants Weld County to at least keep the excellent, good, fair, and unacceptable ratings in parentheses, along with the letter grades, so there is consistency among all 35 local jurisdictions in Colorado doing restaurant inspections.

Bloomberg’s letter grade system was credited for its popularity with New Yorkers but also for its claims of having reduced incidents of foodborne illness. However, there are some doubts about that in Colorado.

“We know that CRA and the NRA (National Restaurant Association) have expressed concerns about the use and value of letter grades and that nationally there are other methods used by other regulatory agencies,” Lawrence notes. “These differing views and differing methods create that debate.”

Four years ago, Denver Environmental Health required restaurants with repeat violations to post those notices on their doors until corrections were made. CRA members hated the practice so much that they agreed to pay higher (some say much higher) fines for less public attention. It still requires public postings when a restaurant is closed for imminent health hazards or if one is found guilty in court of violating a health code.

Danica Lee, manager of Denver’s food safety section, says that violation data show lower rates of violation per inspection since the 2011 changes were made.

“There are no plans at this time to move to a letter rating system,” Lee says. “Some of the challenges with establishing rating systems include fairly reflecting a facility’s severity of violations as well as compliance history over multiple inspections.

Lee, however, adds that nothing is “off the table” and the department continuously evaluates the efficacy of the existing system for communicating with consumers. Denver restaurant inspection reports with inspector notes are available on the city’s website.”

Weld County is a 4,001-square-mile area south of the Wyoming-Colorado border and north of Denver International Airport. It is among the richest agricultural counties and most productive oil and gas areas in the U.S.  It plans on doing 2,650 food establishment inspections in 2015.

Food Safety News

Restaurant Inspections With Letter Grades Debut in Colorado

The letter grade system for reporting restaurant inspection results most associated with New York City has reached Colorado.

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term liberal billionaire mayor, first imposed an A-to-F posted grading system on Big Apple restaurants in 2010. Before Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, his letter grade system was being heralded as a major accomplishment of his 12-year tenure. It was being copied as far away as Florida, and public awareness in New York spread quickly by New Yorkers using apps to locate restaurants with A and B ratings.

Without warning or fanfare, letter grading has arrived in Colorado through a somewhat unlikely jurisdiction — conservative Weld County. It’s upset the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and left the state’s public health community a bit perplexed.

In a sense, what Weld County did was pretty simple. It did not change how restaurant inspections are scored and will continue using the same system with points assigned to a violation that Colorado restaurant inspections have been using since the 1990s.

Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), explains that the 1990s system is coming in for review.

“The department, in coordination with our local public health partners, is reviewing and considering revisions to our current ratings guidance,” Salley told Food Safety News. “Considerations include weighing the prevalence of the violation with the establishment and what mechanism is best to communicate these findings to the consumer.”

What Weld County did do is replace the adjectives: excellent, good, fair, poor and unacceptable, with A-to-F letter grades. Jeff Lawrence, who heads CDPHE’s environmental health and sustainability division, wants Weld County to at least keep the excellent, good, fair, and unacceptable ratings in parentheses, along with the letter grades, so there is consistency among all 35 local jurisdictions in Colorado doing restaurant inspections.

Bloomberg’s letter grade system was credited for its popularity with New Yorkers but also for its claims of having reduced incidents of foodborne illness. However, there are some doubts about that in Colorado.

“We know that CRA and the NRA (National Restaurant Association) have expressed concerns about the use and value of letter grades and that nationally there are other methods used by other regulatory agencies,” Lawrence notes. “These differing views and differing methods create that debate.”

Four years ago, Denver Environmental Health required restaurants with repeat violations to post those notices on their doors until corrections were made. CRA members hated the practice so much that they agreed to pay higher (some say much higher) fines for less public attention. It still requires public postings when a restaurant is closed for imminent health hazards or if one is found guilty in court of violating a health code.

Danica Lee, manager of Denver’s food safety section, says that violation data show lower rates of violation per inspection since the 2011 changes were made.

“There are no plans at this time to move to a letter rating system,” Lee says. “Some of the challenges with establishing rating systems include fairly reflecting a facility’s severity of violations as well as compliance history over multiple inspections.

Lee, however, adds that nothing is “off the table” and the department continuously evaluates the efficacy of the existing system for communicating with consumers. Denver restaurant inspection reports with inspector notes are available on the city’s website.”

Weld County is a 4,001-square-mile area south of the Wyoming-Colorado border and north of Denver International Airport. It is among the richest agricultural counties and most productive oil and gas areas in the U.S.  It plans on doing 2,650 food establishment inspections in 2015.

Food Safety News

Restaurant Inspections With Letter Grades Debut in Colorado

The letter grade system for reporting restaurant inspection results most associated with New York City has reached Colorado.

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term liberal billionaire mayor, first imposed an A-to-F posted grading system on Big Apple restaurants in 2010. Before Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, his letter grade system was being heralded as a major accomplishment of his 12-year tenure. It was being copied as far away as Florida, and public awareness in New York spread quickly by New Yorkers using apps to locate restaurants with A and B ratings.

Without warning or fanfare, letter grading has arrived in Colorado through a somewhat unlikely jurisdiction — conservative Weld County. It’s upset the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and left the state’s public health community a bit perplexed.

In a sense, what Weld County did was pretty simple. It did not change how restaurant inspections are scored and will continue using the same system with points assigned to a violation that Colorado restaurant inspections have been using since the 1990s.

Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), explains that the 1990s system is coming in for review.

“The department, in coordination with our local public health partners, is reviewing and considering revisions to our current ratings guidance,” Salley told Food Safety News. “Considerations include weighing the prevalence of the violation with the establishment and what mechanism is best to communicate these findings to the consumer.”

What Weld County did do is replace the adjectives: excellent, good, fair, poor and unacceptable, with A-to-F letter grades. Jeff Lawrence, who heads CDPHE’s environmental health and sustainability division, wants Weld County to at least keep the excellent, good, fair, and unacceptable ratings in parentheses, along with the letter grades, so there is consistency among all 35 local jurisdictions in Colorado doing restaurant inspections.

Bloomberg’s letter grade system was credited for its popularity with New Yorkers but also for its claims of having reduced incidents of foodborne illness. However, there are some doubts about that in Colorado.

“We know that CRA and the NRA (National Restaurant Association) have expressed concerns about the use and value of letter grades and that nationally there are other methods used by other regulatory agencies,” Lawrence notes. “These differing views and differing methods create that debate.”

Four years ago, Denver Environmental Health required restaurants with repeat violations to post those notices on their doors until corrections were made. CRA members hated the practice so much that they agreed to pay higher (some say much higher) fines for less public attention. It still requires public postings when a restaurant is closed for imminent health hazards or if one is found guilty in court of violating a health code.

Danica Lee, manager of Denver’s food safety section, says that violation data show lower rates of violation per inspection since the 2011 changes were made.

“There are no plans at this time to move to a letter rating system,” Lee says. “Some of the challenges with establishing rating systems include fairly reflecting a facility’s severity of violations as well as compliance history over multiple inspections.

Lee, however, adds that nothing is “off the table” and the department continuously evaluates the efficacy of the existing system for communicating with consumers. Denver restaurant inspection reports with inspector notes are available on the city’s website.”

Weld County is a 4,001-square-mile area south of the Wyoming-Colorado border and north of Denver International Airport. It is among the richest agricultural counties and most productive oil and gas areas in the U.S.  It plans on doing 2,650 food establishment inspections in 2015.

Food Safety News

Restaurant Inspections With Letter Grades Debut in Colorado

The letter grade system for reporting restaurant inspection results most associated with New York City has reached Colorado.

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term liberal billionaire mayor, first imposed an A-to-F posted grading system on Big Apple restaurants in 2010. Before Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, his letter grade system was being heralded as a major accomplishment of his 12-year tenure. It was being copied as far away as Florida, and public awareness in New York spread quickly by New Yorkers using apps to locate restaurants with A and B ratings.

Without warning or fanfare, letter grading has arrived in Colorado through a somewhat unlikely jurisdiction — conservative Weld County. It’s upset the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and left the state’s public health community a bit perplexed.

In a sense, what Weld County did was pretty simple. It did not change how restaurant inspections are scored and will continue using the same system with points assigned to a violation that Colorado restaurant inspections have been using since the 1990s.

Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), explains that the 1990s system is coming in for review.

“The department, in coordination with our local public health partners, is reviewing and considering revisions to our current ratings guidance,” Salley told Food Safety News. “Considerations include weighing the prevalence of the violation with the establishment and what mechanism is best to communicate these findings to the consumer.”

What Weld County did do is replace the adjectives: excellent, good, fair, poor and unacceptable, with A-to-F letter grades. Jeff Lawrence, who heads CDPHE’s environmental health and sustainability division, wants Weld County to at least keep the excellent, good, fair, and unacceptable ratings in parentheses, along with the letter grades, so there is consistency among all 35 local jurisdictions in Colorado doing restaurant inspections.

Bloomberg’s letter grade system was credited for its popularity with New Yorkers but also for its claims of having reduced incidents of foodborne illness. However, there are some doubts about that in Colorado.

“We know that CRA and the NRA (National Restaurant Association) have expressed concerns about the use and value of letter grades and that nationally there are other methods used by other regulatory agencies,” Lawrence notes. “These differing views and differing methods create that debate.”

Four years ago, Denver Environmental Health required restaurants with repeat violations to post those notices on their doors until corrections were made. CRA members hated the practice so much that they agreed to pay higher (some say much higher) fines for less public attention. It still requires public postings when a restaurant is closed for imminent health hazards or if one is found guilty in court of violating a health code.

Danica Lee, manager of Denver’s food safety section, says that violation data show lower rates of violation per inspection since the 2011 changes were made.

“There are no plans at this time to move to a letter rating system,” Lee says. “Some of the challenges with establishing rating systems include fairly reflecting a facility’s severity of violations as well as compliance history over multiple inspections.

Lee, however, adds that nothing is “off the table” and the department continuously evaluates the efficacy of the existing system for communicating with consumers. Denver restaurant inspection reports with inspector notes are available on the city’s website.”

Weld County is a 4,001-square-mile area south of the Wyoming-Colorado border and north of Denver International Airport. It is among the richest agricultural counties and most productive oil and gas areas in the U.S.  It plans on doing 2,650 food establishment inspections in 2015.

Food Safety News

Restaurant Inspections With Letter Grades Debut in Colorado

The letter grade system for reporting restaurant inspection results most associated with New York City has reached Colorado.

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term liberal billionaire mayor, first imposed an A-to-F posted grading system on Big Apple restaurants in 2010. Before Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, his letter grade system was being heralded as a major accomplishment of his 12-year tenure. It was being copied as far away as Florida, and public awareness in New York spread quickly by New Yorkers using apps to locate restaurants with A and B ratings.

Without warning or fanfare, letter grading has arrived in Colorado through a somewhat unlikely jurisdiction — conservative Weld County. It’s upset the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and left the state’s public health community a bit perplexed.

In a sense, what Weld County did was pretty simple. It did not change how restaurant inspections are scored and will continue using the same system with points assigned to a violation that Colorado restaurant inspections have been using since the 1990s.

Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), explains that the 1990s system is coming in for review.

“The department, in coordination with our local public health partners, is reviewing and considering revisions to our current ratings guidance,” Salley told Food Safety News. “Considerations include weighing the prevalence of the violation with the establishment and what mechanism is best to communicate these findings to the consumer.”

What Weld County did do is replace the adjectives: excellent, good, fair, poor and unacceptable, with A-to-F letter grades. Jeff Lawrence, who heads CDPHE’s environmental health and sustainability division, wants Weld County to at least keep the excellent, good, fair, and unacceptable ratings in parentheses, along with the letter grades, so there is consistency among all 35 local jurisdictions in Colorado doing restaurant inspections.

Bloomberg’s letter grade system was credited for its popularity with New Yorkers but also for its claims of having reduced incidents of foodborne illness. However, there are some doubts about that in Colorado.

“We know that CRA and the NRA (National Restaurant Association) have expressed concerns about the use and value of letter grades and that nationally there are other methods used by other regulatory agencies,” Lawrence notes. “These differing views and differing methods create that debate.”

Four years ago, Denver Environmental Health required restaurants with repeat violations to post those notices on their doors until corrections were made. CRA members hated the practice so much that they agreed to pay higher (some say much higher) fines for less public attention. It still requires public postings when a restaurant is closed for imminent health hazards or if one is found guilty in court of violating a health code.

Danica Lee, manager of Denver’s food safety section, says that violation data show lower rates of violation per inspection since the 2011 changes were made.

“There are no plans at this time to move to a letter rating system,” Lee says. “Some of the challenges with establishing rating systems include fairly reflecting a facility’s severity of violations as well as compliance history over multiple inspections.

Lee, however, adds that nothing is “off the table” and the department continuously evaluates the efficacy of the existing system for communicating with consumers. Denver restaurant inspection reports with inspector notes are available on the city’s website.”

Weld County is a 4,001-square-mile area south of the Wyoming-Colorado border and north of Denver International Airport. It is among the richest agricultural counties and most productive oil and gas areas in the U.S.  It plans on doing 2,650 food establishment inspections in 2015.

Food Safety News

Restaurant Inspections With Letter Grades Debut in Colorado

The letter grade system for reporting restaurant inspection results most associated with New York City has reached Colorado.

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term liberal billionaire mayor, first imposed an A-to-F posted grading system on Big Apple restaurants in 2010. Before Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, his letter grade system was being heralded as a major accomplishment of his 12-year tenure. It was being copied as far away as Florida, and public awareness in New York spread quickly by New Yorkers using apps to locate restaurants with A and B ratings.

Without warning or fanfare, letter grading has arrived in Colorado through a somewhat unlikely jurisdiction — conservative Weld County. It’s upset the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and left the state’s public health community a bit perplexed.

In a sense, what Weld County did was pretty simple. It did not change how restaurant inspections are scored and will continue using the same system with points assigned to a violation that Colorado restaurant inspections have been using since the 1990s.

Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), explains that the 1990s system is coming in for review.

“The department, in coordination with our local public health partners, is reviewing and considering revisions to our current ratings guidance,” Salley told Food Safety News. “Considerations include weighing the prevalence of the violation with the establishment and what mechanism is best to communicate these findings to the consumer.”

What Weld County did do is replace the adjectives: excellent, good, fair, poor and unacceptable, with A-to-F letter grades. Jeff Lawrence, who heads CDPHE’s environmental health and sustainability division, wants Weld County to at least keep the excellent, good, fair, and unacceptable ratings in parentheses, along with the letter grades, so there is consistency among all 35 local jurisdictions in Colorado doing restaurant inspections.

Bloomberg’s letter grade system was credited for its popularity with New Yorkers but also for its claims of having reduced incidents of foodborne illness. However, there are some doubts about that in Colorado.

“We know that CRA and the NRA (National Restaurant Association) have expressed concerns about the use and value of letter grades and that nationally there are other methods used by other regulatory agencies,” Lawrence notes. “These differing views and differing methods create that debate.”

Four years ago, Denver Environmental Health required restaurants with repeat violations to post those notices on their doors until corrections were made. CRA members hated the practice so much that they agreed to pay higher (some say much higher) fines for less public attention. It still requires public postings when a restaurant is closed for imminent health hazards or if one is found guilty in court of violating a health code.

Danica Lee, manager of Denver’s food safety section, says that violation data show lower rates of violation per inspection since the 2011 changes were made.

“There are no plans at this time to move to a letter rating system,” Lee says. “Some of the challenges with establishing rating systems include fairly reflecting a facility’s severity of violations as well as compliance history over multiple inspections.

Lee, however, adds that nothing is “off the table” and the department continuously evaluates the efficacy of the existing system for communicating with consumers. Denver restaurant inspection reports with inspector notes are available on the city’s website.”

Weld County is a 4,001-square-mile area south of the Wyoming-Colorado border and north of Denver International Airport. It is among the richest agricultural counties and most productive oil and gas areas in the U.S.  It plans on doing 2,650 food establishment inspections in 2015.

Food Safety News

New York City’s Restaurant Grades: Part 4

(This editorial is part of a series. You can find earlier entries here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

Per Se, an upscale and expensive restaurant in Manhattan, found itself on ABC News recently – not for the great food, but for the less-than-stellar health inspection it received on Feb. 19, 2014. This disclosure went from a posted sign with a letter grade and a listing on NYC’s website to the living rooms of millions of people watching the evening news.

Usually the reports involving restaurants focus on menu items, nutritional labeling and the occasional rodent caught on camera. Was it a slow news day, or did someone drop a dime to the media because of bad service, a conflict of interest or just to spread the word to the masses?

Per Se scored 42 points in health violations on this most recent inspection, which resulted in a “C” grade. Improper holding temperatures (both hot and cold), issues with a handwashing facility, and wet wiping cloths not properly stored in sanitizer solution were all cited as “Critical” by the NYC Department of Health. Unfortunately, the lack of food safety by this establishment seems to be a trend. On Dec. 18, 2013, they scored 43 points, and, on Dec. 13, 2011, 41 points were dished out.

Sometimes you get what is eventually coming to you, especially if repeated problems involve thermal abuse, one of the leading causes of foodborne illness.

No matter what side you are on concerning the pros and cons of public health and sanitation and how it is rated, disclosed and fined, one thing is clear, New York City’s Health Department can also improve.

  • Update the website. It is dated March 2012, and Michael Bloomberg is no longer the mayor.
  • List the condition levels (1-5) that were cited on the inspection. This will give greater clarity about what was actually observed. How many items were out of temperature and by how many degrees?
  • The “Critical” violations need to be reassessed. One wet wiping cloth stored out of sanitizer solution that still has a sufficient amount of sanitizer soaked into it should not be “Critical” and not cost $ 300 each.
  • Clarify the proper time and temperature for rare roast beef. Presently, there is no documented guidance.
  • List the fines per violation. On the website, the fines per violation can be $ 200-$ 2,000 and higher for repeats. This is vague and shifty, especially if the amounts fluctuate depending on citations. Has there been any progress on the promised $ 20-million fine reduction?
  • List the restaurants that have paid for the food safety training that has promised to be offered.
  • Has a mediator been assigned yet to work between the restaurants and the NYC Department of Health?

Proper food safety is integral to protecting both consumer health and operational liability. Expectations and consequences should be made clear, and training should be ongoing and consistent.

Food Safety News

The ABCs of New York City’s Restaurant Grades: Part 3

There’s been  some good news for restaurant operators in New York City.

Food safety fines will be reduced. The $ 50 million-a-year revenue will now be brought down to an estimated $ 30 million. (What’s $ 20 million between friends anyway?) In addition, grade standards will be reassessed, an office will be created to mediate between operators and inspectors and food safety training will be offered by the Health Department…for a nominal fee. While the first consultation will not cost the operator, after that, who knows. I still smell profitability.

The exact details of how this will be accomplished have yet to be disclosed, but it is a step in the right direction.

Food safety should not be all about generating cash flow. Protecting consumers’ health and the restaurant’s reputation and liability should be the main focus. As I have said all along, what is fair is fair. If you prepare food in a way that puts consumers at risk, you should get hit hard in the wallet.

Having a wet wiping cloth outside sanitizer solution should not cost you $ 300 in fines, nor should a fruit fly on an environmental surface for that matter.

What the department of health needs to do is make the violations that have a direct potential correlation to foodborne illness cost the most. Cross-contamination, adulterated food, thermal abuse, sick food workers and hand washing need to be at the forefront of an inspection.

Looking at the root cause and some training tips would better serve food service establishments, rather than an inspector bringing the hammer down on petty citations.

Food inspectors will always be looked at as the enemy; however, a little fairness and respect goes a long way.

Stay tuned…we will see how this plays out.

Food Safety News

The ABCs of New York Restaurant Grades: Part 2

In “The ABCs of New York Restaurant Grades,” I highlighted the pros and cons of how the system works.

After viewing a recent news cast on how some restaurants are not posting their grades properly for public view at their locations, I felt compelled to comment on the issue.

Restaurants that do not conspicuously post their grades on the front window or door will be assessed a $ 1,000 fine by the NYC Health Department. Hey, at least that is a $ 100 discount from the $ 900 three-fruit-fly fine I saw.

For some lower volume locations that is a big chunk of cash. For other high volume, high priced food establishments, that is a drop in the bucket — the price of a six-top drinking top shelf alcohol or just the cost of doing business.

Apparently what those successfully visible locations are afraid of are the reviews or negative publicity. That will inevitably cost more than the fine from NYC in lost revenue.

Is it just me or have you ever seen a restaurant review that includes a grade for food safety? Zagat maybe?

So, what is the solution? To me, it’s simple; adopt a proactive food safety culture, properly train your staff and spend a few dollars on equipment, facilities and pest control. Most of all…follow up daily. Do that, which you should be doing anyway, and you won’t have to be embarrassed or pinched by a “C.”

Hiding a posted inspection grade or result is nothing new. By law, supermarkets in NYC are supposed to post their most recent annual Department of Agriculture inspection result on the front window, door or wall in a conspicuous manner as well. In that case if a “critical deficiency” is observed, scored and the store fails, it should be there like the scarlet letter for all to see. This can be a finable offense as well, just maybe not as juicy as a restaurant.

Two different regulatory agencies, two different thought processes.

Playing hide and seek with your health department grade or result does nothing to the educated consumer who can easily research the result. It is public information, after all. The consumer has the ability to make an informed decision on where they shop or eat out. Making it tough by deception and not being forthcoming may leave a sour taste in some people’s mouths.

Food Safety News