food safety radio .mp3

Boston is considering a health code grading system for the city's 3,000 eating establishments. The grades would let diners know how well restaurants are complying with food handling regulations.

Marie Joseph was a little nervous seeing a health inspector at her favorite lunch spot.

Veteran health inspector Dave Finnegan made a surprise visit to Van Shabu and bar in Dorchester.

 The inspection went well but what if it ended with a grade? Joseph has an idea of what’s good or bad. 

“I would think an A would be an awesome place to eat…. a C would be cause for concern especially if it’s the lowest grade.”

Joseph is right. The City of Boston’s Inspectional Services Department is proposing the new grading system that would apply to all 3,000 restaurants in the city.

Commissioner William Christopher says every restaurant would be given a grade just like a report card.

“This is a way for us to get our message out about the overall health standards of restaurants throughout the city in a very simple common sense approach. An A restaurant it has a relatively perfect board of health inspection but there can be a couple of violations. A C means…we're hoping not to issue any C’s. A C means there’s a couple of major violations, it doesn’t raise to the level of closing the restaurant, but there are issues we want to deal with.”

The grades would be given out after pop-up visits where Finnegan checked food temperature.

Proponents say this is about transparency—letting people know what they’re getting. But some opponents believe it’s an unnecessary step and a hurdle for restaurant owners.

The Massachusetts Restaurant Association isn’t on board-and issued this statement.

“We don’t think it's necessary because information is already on the city’s website. An inspection is a snapshot in time so it doesn’t tell the whole story. We don’t believe the system is broken and this grading could impact the livelihood of people working inside the restaurants”—

Bob Luz, President Massachusetts Association of Restaurants

Meanwhile, some restaurant owners like Steve DiFillippo of Davio’s Restaurants don’t have a problem with it. He said,

I think people are overreacting. The health department in our cities they’re really good and they want to work with you.”

Marie Joseph is glad the city is trying to take an extra step.

“I won’t have to worry about food poisoning or something maybe less serious maybe more.”

Commissioner Christopher says he expects the city council to take up the grading system in the spring. If approved, grades will be posted online…then eventually displayed in storefronts. Issues like how long the grade lasts and whether a restaurant can get a grade changed haven’t been decided.