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Why That 'A' Grade At Your Favorite Restaurant May Not Mean Much

(Photo by Tim Wang via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
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Spoiler alert: you may not feel as confident eating at your favorite restaurant this weekend, once you hear what health official have to say about the "A" health grade taped to the window.

Public health officials say that L.A. County's restaurant grading system is in need of a major overhaul, acknowledging that restaurants with significant health violations still receive "A" grades, according to the Daily Breeze. Los Angeles County Public Health Interim Director Cynthia Harding says that the 17-year-old grading system—which assigns A, B or C grades and requires temporary closures based on violations—needs major improvements to better inform the public of health and safety issues.

The concerning call to fix the broken system was prompted by the county Board of Supervisors a report by the Los Angeles News Group, which recently reviewed 21 months of health inspection data. The board found that too many restaurants were still operating with violations and the grading system is misleading the public on the actual safety and cleanliness of kitchens. According to the report of the 1,069 permit suspensions or temporary closures that occurred between July 1, 2013 and March 31 of this year, 95 percent took place at restaurants that still had an A or B rating despite the closure. Other recent reports have also shown that the health department is failing to inspect restaurants often enough, even after major violations, including food poisoning outbreaks.

Public health officials say they will have a full report of recommendations in 30 days suggesting how to fix a system that allows for an A grade despite multiple violations, which could include rodent infestations or a lack of hot water.

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Correction: the post originally stated that the review of health inspection data was done by the county Board of Supervisors. It was done in a report by the Los Angeles News Group.