Bloomberg says restaurants saved millions in health fines
by Heather Senison
Aug 04, 2011 | 990 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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One-third of New York City’s restaurant owners saved around $3 million by earning A-grades on their health inspections in the last six months, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on Monday, August 1.

In his State of the City address, Bloomberg promised that restaurants that earned an A either on their initial or final inspection would not have to pay any fines for sanitary transgressions.

Bloomberg appeared on the one-year anniversary of the grading system along with Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda Gibbs and Health Commissioner Thomas Farley in front of Spark’s Deli at 28-31 Borden Avenue in Long Island City, which was an A recipient.

“I am proud to say that the system is working for customers and for restaurants” Bloomberg said. “Not only has the city made restaurants cleaner, safer and more transparent for customers, but the fine relief has saved 8,000 restaurant owners about $3 million.”

Currently 69 percent of the 24,000 inspected restaurants, 90 percent of the city’s total eateries, received an A for maintaining high sanitary and food safety standards. Fifteen percent of the graded restaurants received B’s, 4 percent received C’s, and 12 percent have a “grade pending” sign posted, meaning their grade is yet to be determined by the Health Department, according to Bloomberg’s office.

Restaurants are inspected two times per each six-month grading cycle. If they do not earn an A on the first inspection, they do not get a grade and are re-inspected a month later. That way they have time to clean up shop, according to Bloomberg’s office.

“We had two goals with letter grading,” Farley said, “to give customers information that they want as they make their dining choices and to provide an incentive for restaurants to achieve the best food safety practices.”

According to Bloomberg’s office, at the program’s six-month mark, 27 percent of restaurants graded received an A on their initial inspection. That number rose to 40 percent since then.

Thirty-eight percent of restaurants that received B’s on their initial inspection rose to an A in the follow-up. In addition, 70 percent of restaurants that received a C initially rose to an A or B in the follow-up. Those that rose to an A did not have to pay any fines, according to the mayor’s office.

“Like many other New Yorkers, I have used letter grades to make dining choices throughout the past year,” Gibbs said. “The restaurant grading system has been a successful means of [provide incentives for] restaurant owners to improve and maintain best food safety practices.”

According to a survey conducted by Baruch College, 90 percent of New Yorkers approve of the program to post health grades in the front windows of restaurants and 70 percent have seen the signs. In addition, 65 percent of New Yorkers who were surveyed said the grades affect their dining choices.
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