Santa Clara County Launches "Consumer Friendly" Restaurant Scoring System

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 3, 2014

SANTA CLARA COUNTY LAUNCHES “CONSUMER FRIENDLY” RESTAURANT SCORING SYSTEM

SAN JOSE – Starting this week, Santa Clara County diners will know a lot more about the safety and cleanliness of the restaurants they’re visiting. The County Department of Environmental Health is rolling out a new and improved website for reporting food facility inspections and grades, giving consumers easy access to important information about what they’re eating.

“Whether you're grabbing a quick lunch or settling in for a fancy dinner, you want to know that the food was prepared in a kitchen that's clean and safe,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who pushed for the changes. “Now that information is available online and at the front door.”

“Foodborne illness is a serious public health problem,” said Simitian.  “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report an estimated 76 million U.S. cases of foodborne illnesses annually -- including 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths.”

From this month forward, anyone buying prepared food in Santa Clara County – whether at a full restaurant, a deli, a bakery, or anything in between – will see a placard on the wall with the results of that facility’s last County inspection. The placards will be color-coded:

• green for “Pass;”

• yellow for  “Conditional Pass” (meaning some major violations, but all corrected upon inspection); and, 

• There’s a red placard for “Fail,” too, but customers should never see it. Any facility that fails inspection will be closed until its violations are corrected and a fresh inspection has been completed.

In addition to the on-site placards, full inspection reports for all food facilities will be posted on a new County website, along with a prominently posted score of 1 – 100.  “The goal,” said Simitian, “is to make the whole system easy to use and consumer friendly.”

Anyone can see the list of major, moderate, and minor violations tallied against a facility, along with the inspector’s field notes from their visit and the resulting numerical inspection score. “This tells consumers what they need to know to make informed decisions,” said Simitian, “and it gives restaurants an additional incentive to keep their establishments safe and clean.”

In fact, Simitian said he’s already checked on one of his favorite North County restaurants and was pleased to see a score of 95, “which is an ‘A’ in anybody’s book.”

Because the system is new, scores and inspection results will be coming online over the course of the coming months. Older scores will be retained to allow customers a sense of how each restaurant has performed over time.

The new placards and online reporting system are the culmination of work that Simitian began 14 years ago, during his first term as a County Supervisor. In 2000, the Board approved his initial proposal for online posting of health inspection results, but that proposal was never fully implemented.

Simitian returned to the Board a dozen years later; and at Simitian’s urging, implementation finally began last year. The County completed a feasibility study for the new system, and began educating staff and restaurant operators about the upcoming changes.

“Look, this is public information,” said Simitian. “The public should have easy access to it.  Now they do.  I appreciate the work of the Department of Environmental Health over the past year in making this new scoring and reporting system a reality. This is a definitely a case of ‘better late than never’.” 

To access the system, please go to:  www.sccgov.org/SCCDineOut

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