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Pittsburgh Restaurateurs Spurn Proposed Health Letter Grading System

They believe that letter grades create a "culture of fear."


Pittsburgh-area restaurant owners are giving a newly proposed letter-based health grading system an F. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, members of the Allegheny County Council want restaurants to be given an A-B-C cleanliness grade — to be posted on their doors — similar to systems in Los Angeles and New York City. Local restaurateurs are vehemently opposed to the idea, claiming that it creates fear.

They argue that the current system — which features three colors — is "working well." Under the color system, "green indicates an establishment passed a health inspection; yellow means it is under consumer alert; and red signifies it was ordered to close."

Council members believe that a letter grading system will help "prevent food-borne illness." This is because it would modify the way conditions are reported. Plus, posted grades will "allow the consumer to make an immediate and informed decision."

Many have found flaws in the health letter grade system in NYC. Restaurants can be docked for everything from employees eating or drinking out of an open container in a food prep area to not having a hand washing sink in the right area. Back in March, the health department caused quite an uproar when it gave one of New York City's most highly rated restaurants, Thomas Keller's Per Se, a C grade. Christopher Hickey of the New York State Restaurant Association tells the paper that "letter grades have not solved the problem," instead, "they've created a culture of fear."