Restaurants will now receive one of four food safety ratings to provide the public with more information about the level of a restaurant’s food safety practices. Photo courtesty of King County Public Health

King County unveils new restaurant rating system

  • Tuesday, February 7, 2017 1:48pm
  • News

Next time Mercer Island residents go to their favorite restaurant, they may notice something new — a sign by the front window telling them just how safe and clean the business is.

As part of a program that began in January, restaurants throughout the county are receiving a new rating and window sign when they receive their food safety inspection. Depending on how many and which violations inspectors find, food vendors will either be ranked as “Needs to improve,” “Okay,” “Good” or “Excellent.”

Diners will also spot Emojis on the inspection signs — a unique addition that Public Health of Seattle and King County added after conducting a focus group with University of Washington students.

Public Health officials decided to revamp the food safety rating system over a year ago after hearing loud and clear that the public wanted more information.

“We received comments in all forms — emails to us, calls to us and sometimes they’d come directly into our program offices. We found over the years — particularly in 2013 and 2014 — that we were receiving a lot of questions about getting a rating system,” said Food Program Manager Becky Elias.

Previously, restaurants would receive either a “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory” inspection. A restaurant would receive an “unsatisfactory” inspection for a single or many “red critical” violations that could lead to food-borne illnesses.

A reinspection was required if a restaurant tallied 35 or more red violation points, and was closed if the restaurant accumulated either 90 red violation points, or 120 points in violations that could cause food-borne illnesses or lesser maintenance and sanitation issues known as “blue critical violations.”

Inspection reviews did not inform patrons of a restaurant’s past transgressions. Now, a restaurant’s inspection history will contribute to their overall rating.

“That was actually something that we heard from the business community and our inspector community. There are so many variables that can happen on a given day — there could be a change in management, changes in staff, it could just be a particularly busy day, there could be a new inspector in that area. The phrase that we were hearing them say was that a single inspection is just a snapshot in time and doesn’t tell you how well a business is likely to perform on any given day,” Elias said.

Restaurants in the “Excellent” category have had none or very few red critical violations, restaurants in the “Good” category have had some red critical violations and restaurants in the “Okay” category have had many red critical violations. Restaurants in the “Needs to Improve” category have either been closed by Public Health within the last year or required multiple return inspections to fix food safety practices.

The new ratings will be rolled out in phases over 2017, so it may be a while before diners see signs in the area.

See www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health for more.

More in News

Inslee talks education, carbon tax and opioid crisis

Carbon tax proposal would replenish the state’s reserves for the first year for education spending.

With help of community donors, Mercer Island completes Island Crest Park renovation

In other city news, Islanders can now comment on the TIP and enjoy larger 630 shuttles.

Mercer Island legislator plans to pass equal pay law this year

Rep. Tana Senn’s bill aiming to address the gender pay gap is off to a fast start.

Islanders report vandalism, blackmail, jewelry theft

The blotter consists of officers’ accounts of crimes and other incidents in Mercer Island.

Governor rolls out carbon tax proposal and Republicans balk

By Josh Kelety WNPA Olympia News Bureau Gov. Jay Inslee rolled out… Continue reading

Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Foundation announces raffle prizes for annual breakfast

The biggest fundraiser for MIYFS is coming up on Feb. 7, but raffle tickets are on sale now.

UW athletic director to keynote benefit for Mercer Island Boys and Girls Club

The business breakfast will run from 7-8:15 a.m. on Feb. 1.

Mercer Islander named to Lehigh University dean’s list

Dean’s list status, which is awarded to students who earned a scholastic… Continue reading

Mercer Island High School drama to present ‘Good Kids’ as winter play

In other school news, the kindergarten roundup is coming up and Pathfinder nominations close soon.

Passing the gavel: Mercer Island City Council selects Debbie Bertlin as mayor

Salim Nice will serve as deputy mayor, as the city appoints new leadership for 2018-19.

Islanders report thefts of kayak, motorcycle, bicycle

The blotter consists of officers’ accounts of crimes and other incidents in Mercer Island.

Viewers in the gallery applaud as Gov. Jay Inslee makes his annual state-of-the state address before a joint legislative session Tuesday in Olympia. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Inslee: ‘It’s our state’s destiny … to fight climate change’

In his State-of-the-State address, the governor made the case for an ambitious carbon tax.