07/16/04 — Restaurant sanitation score cars to get new look

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Restaurant sanitation score cars to get new look

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 16, 2004 1:58 PM

Restaurant sanitation score cards from the state will have a new look next month.

Environmental health officials are introducing the new score cards Aug. 1. Instead of being a different color for each grade, the cards given after restaurant inspections will now be black and white.

Worth Heath, environmental health coordinator for the Wayne Health Department's food and lodging program, said that North Carolina is one of only three states in the country that have the A, B and C graded cards. South Carolina and California are the other two.

The inspection process remains the same, he said, but the format for the card will change slightly. The new card will prominently feature both the letter grade and a number score, ranging from 70 to 102, in one-inch-high characters.

Both scores were previously featured, but the number score was written at the bottom of the card and was smaller. In years past, the cards also designated grades by color -- blue for an "A," green for "B," and red for "C."

The change comes after a pilot study in seven counties tested a grade card that contained only a number score, without the letter grade. Based upon feedback from health departments in those counties, as well as industry and the public, the state decided to use a card with prominent letter and number scores.

State environmental health officials have launched a public outreach campaign aimed at making restaurant patrons aware of the new card format. "Know the Score" fact sheets and brochures about the new card are being distributed to local health departments. The information will also be available on the state's Web site, www.deh.enr.state.nc.us.

Heath said the change in card appearance marks the end of an era.

"I've worked with health departments for 31 years and it's been like that all those years," he said.

The restaurant inspection process will remain the same, he said. Restaurants and other food handling establishments are still subject to unannounced inspections by environmental health specialists every quarter. Inspectors observe the premises and the conditions under which food is handled and prepared.

Deductions from the scores are made when the rules are not met, and the results of the inspections, in the form of the sanitation score card, are required to be posted in a place easily seen by the public.