Initiated by Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich in 1998, the County of Los Angeles’ restaurant grading system was established to increase public access to information regarding local food facilities and their hygienic conditions, and is now undergoing several critical enhancements to further improve the prominent ABC letter grading system that is currently in place.
For decades prior to 1998, the County’s Department of Public Health regularly performed routine inspections of restaurants and retail food facilities, but little information was readily available to the consumer about inspection results. Subsequently, media reports highlighted the unsafe and unhygienic food handling at a number of restaurants in the County. As a result, Supervisor Antonovich authored a motion that was unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors which directed the Department to develop a plan to address these deficiencies in the restaurant inspection program.
Since the launch of the restaurant grading system, the County has experienced dramatically improved and safer food facilities, better access to information for consumers, and overall reduced illnesses that has yielded in a significant benefit to the public’s health. As of 2008, an independent study found that the grading program was linked to a 20% decrease in food-borne illness hospitalizations.
“To continue to preserve the public’s confidence in the County’s food grading system, we will ensure that on-going improvements are made that ensure the highest standards for our restaurants and consumers,” said Supervisor Antonovich.
Public Health will continue to utilize the ABC letter grading system, but include new enhancements such as last inspection dates, quick response (QR) codes that allow a visual dashboard of inspection information, and easy access for business operators to view inspection history information. The new cards will begin to be issued in the coming months during routine inspections.
“It is important that restaurant goers are provided with accurate and timely information so that they can make informed choices when dining out,” said Cynthia Harding, MPH, Interim Director for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “A key component of the improved grading system is public disclosure of the grade or score earned at the time of inspection.”
Major changes have been made to allow a more accurate grade reflection of point deductions that result from major violations that require immediate correction or facility permit suspensions. Critical violations such as no water availability, sewage problems, or vermin infestation, will result in an overall score that precludes a restaurant from being awarded the highest score, “A”.
Changes to the grading system are available on the website for the public and retail food business owners to view. For more information on the retail food facility grading system, visit www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/eh.