On The House: The Rise And Fall Of The Restaurant Grade Proposal

Oct 7, 2015

One burger joint in Pittsburgh has repeatedly kept raw hamburger meat, lettuce and coleslaw at temperatures that allow bacteria to flourish. A chain restaurant’s worst violations in the past three years were a missing floor tile and a dirty floor drain.

Both restaurants have maintained their approved-to-operate green stickers from the Allegheny County Health Department, but one would’ve earned a ‘C’ and the other an ‘A’ if the county’s attempts to institute a restaurant grading system had passed.

Nearly all of the roughly 4,200 restaurants in the county have a green sticker — no matter whether it had five high-risk health violations in its last inspection or none.

There have been two failed attempts, most recently in May, to pass an A-B-C restaurant grading system that could give consumers more refined health information at a key decision-making point — entering a restaurant.

Although the Allegheny County Health Department supported the change, the county council voted the A-B-C system down 12-1. Everyone who spoke at the meeting opposed the measure. Most were from the restaurant industry.

PublicSource wondered why there was so little support for the measure when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about one in six people get a foodborne-related illness a year.

So, we acquired the criteria for the potential grading system and records of health inspections from July 2014 through April 2015. The result of combining the two is a look at how county restaurants would have scored under the letter grading system.

Read this and other stories at the website of our news partner PublicSource.