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King County Restaurants May Get a New Rating System

Seattle resident Sarah Schacht was hospitalized for E. coli after eating at an Ethiopian restaurant in the C.D. last year; MyNorthwest reports that the eatery that sickened Schacht had flunked half a dozen health inspections since 2010. Schacht got the city's attention when she collected 2,000 signatures on a petition to reform how the King County Board of Health assesses restaurants, asking for health grades to be posted in front windows. Now, the health department has appointed committees of officials and members of the restaurant industry to generate revised policies for how food inspection results are made available to the public.

Manager of Food Protection for Public Health - Seattle & King County Becky Elias tells My Northwest that the current system, which includes a website listing inspection results that went live in 2001, was created to be transparent and, "make as much information available as possible." But Schacht calls the database "antiquated and overly complicated."

The health department is beginning to take action: "We have heard that message loud and clear that that's something people are wanting," Elias says. She adds that the process may not end in King County restaurants displaying an A, B, C, D, or F grade in their window, but the department is "committed to some public display that quickly informs customers how a restaurant fared."

Several cities, including New York and Los Angeles, have already implemented a letter grade system. The health department will begin testing out new inspection display options early next year and plans to have the system in place by the end of 2015.
· How safe is your favorite restaurant? King County cooking up new rating system [MyNorthwest]
[A Restaurant Hygiene Grade in NYC. Photo: Mike Licht/Flickr]