County passes new food-safety law

Restaurants will be required to post full health inspection results on site and online

Restaurants in Santa Clara County will be required to post a food-safety grading placard in their windows starting this fall, per a proposal the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Tuesday, April 29.

The new law mandates that all restaurants publicly post the color-coded placards indicating their inspection levels -- green for pass, yellow for conditional pass or red for fail/closed. In order to pass, restaurants cannot have more than one major violation ("major" is defined as any violation that poses an imminent health hazard). An establishment with two or more violations would receive the yellow "conditional pass" placard.

Restaurants that fail to correct violations upon inspection get slapped with the red card and are closed until they comply. This rating system is modeled after Sacramento County's "Green-Yellow-Red" grading system.

Santa Clara County does currently post restaurants whose permits have been suspended, along with the reason for the suspension and dates they closed and reopened. An online database is also searchable by restaurant and posts the most recent inspection report.

The law will also require that complete inspection results -- including all violations -- be posted on the Department of Environmental Health website, along with an "easy-to-understand" online score for these results (from 1 to 100).

"Right now, when you walk into a restaurant, about all you know for sure from a health and safety standpoint is that it hasn't been bad enough to get closed down," Simitian said in a statement. "And if nobody knows you're 'just barely good enough,' then there's no real incentive to do better."

The statement also calls food borne illness a "major public health issue," citing a Disease Control and Prevention estimate that each year, roughly one in six Americans (or more than 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.

"This is pretty straightforward," Simitian said. "If the results of our health inspections are readily available, then local restaurants have an added incentive to improve food safety, and local consumers have the information they need to make informed choices."

Under the new law, restaurants will have to pay a fee, which is expected to not be more than $100, but the amount won't be finalized until 2016 when overall costs have been evaluated, county staff said Tuesday.

The county will bring on two new hires -- an additional environmental health specialist and a senior environmental health specialist -- to help ensure re-scoring of restaurants can be completed in a timely manner if the establishment has corrected the violations.

Simitian has long advocated for increased public access to restaurant-inspection information. While serving as supervisor in 2000, the board did approve a previous proposal he put forth to post health-inspection results online, but it was never actually implemented.

"In fact, when I returned to the Board in 2013, I discovered that we'd actually gone backwards in terms of our online disclosure efforts," he said. "I'm glad we're finally poised to make progress, even if it's coming 13 years later."

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3 people like this
Posted by Fast food places
a resident of Monta Loma
on Apr 29, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Fast food places deserve a yellow to red signs. I try my best not go to fast food place around town anymore since all the many times i've gotten upset stomach from them, ie the runs.

3 people like this
Posted by Eclectic Eater
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 29, 2014 at 7:54 pm

This is something that is long overdue.

3 people like this
Posted by Eclectic Eater
a resident of Shoreline West
on Apr 29, 2014 at 7:54 pm

This is something that is long overdue.

3 people like this
Posted by ME
a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 29, 2014 at 9:59 pm

Kudos to Joe for looking after his constituents and persevering to get restaurants to post this important information. Raspberries to the old Board of Supervisors for not implementing this law sooner.

3 people like this
Posted by dc
a resident of North Whisman
on May 1, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Just 3 levels?

Two are given either you are open or closed. This yellow code does not tell me much and I will need to search for details of the problem. (give a web site it will be used a lot) not all yellow are the same to me....

Minor Violation Cited - K35 - Equipment, utensils - Unapproved, unclean, not in good repair, inadequate capacity
Site Observation:
Can opener show build up [CA] Clean the can opener

Minor Violation Cited - K36 - Equipment, utensils, linens: Improper storage and use
Site Observation:
Cafe frig at 48F [CA} Monitor temperature and if needed modify to 41F
Minor Violation Cited - K40 - Wiping cloths: improperly used and stored

Minor Violation Cited - K23 - Observed rodents, insects, birds, or animals
Each food facility shall be kept free of vermin: rodents (rats, mice), cockroaches, flies.( 114259.1, 114259.4, 114259.5)

ewweeee Web Link

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