Health

LA restaurants' health inspection grade curve is about to end

FILE:  A Manhattan wine bar rated with a Health Department
FILE: A Manhattan wine bar rated with a Health Department "A" grade is seen March 7, 2011 in New York City.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

Restaurant customers in Los Angeles County will be guided by more precise health-inspection grades appearing in the windows of eateries in 2017, with additional details of inspections to be readily available online.

The biggest change will be in the scoring system used by inspectors when evaluating a restaurant, said James Dragan, a chief environmental health specialist for the county.

A perfect score for a restaurant is 100, but inspectors deduct points for major health risks, minor health risks and violations of good retail practices. A business scoring 90-100 points gets an “A” grade, 80-89 points a “B” grade, and 70-79 points a “C” grade.

With the current scoring system, a restaurant has four points deducted for a “major critical violation” and two major critical violations can result in the restaurant being ordered to close until the violations are corrected. However, if those violations are the only violations found, the restaurant would still score 92 points and get an “A” grade.

Types of major critical violations that result in closures include having no water service, a sewage overflow or vermin infestation, Dragan said.

“If you were to see an “A” grade on [the window card], you wouldn’t think that we had closed that facility for one of those reasons,” Dragan said. “That’s confusing to the public, and quite frankly, confusing to us. So we found it necessary to make that change.”

Under the new scoring system that goes into effect in January, a restaurant with two major critical violations will have 11 points deducted, resulting in a “B” grade, Dragan said.

The new window cards displaying the restaurant’s health grade will also include the date of the latest inspection.

“One of the major concerns we heard from the public when we did a survey was they wanted to know when that inspection was made,” Dragan said. “So that is one of the largest changes right now. We will have the date of the inspection and the inspector will initial that date. So that when you walk up to a facility and see the posted grade, you know when that inspection was made last.”

The county will also be taking advantage of new technology to provide restaurant goers with mobile devices more details about a restaurant’s inspection.

Former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky announces letter grading for health inspections of food trucks in February 2011.
Former L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky announces letter grading for health inspections of food trucks in February 2011.
Zev Yaroslavsky / L.A. County

“In the future we will incorporate more information through the use of a QR code that can take you to a dashboard of additional information about the facility,” Dragan said. “That’s currently in the works and, hopefully, that will be coming out early in the next year.”

County health department officials will be providing details on the new system to restaurant operators through mailers, its website and at selected events.

“Hopefully, everyone gets that message and takes a closer look at their operations and makes the changes they need to make in order to be OK with our inspection and not fall into this problem where you have the two major critical violations or you’re closed,” Dragan said. “We will begin deducting those points starting January of 2017.”