Grading System For Restaurant Inspections Not Favored in Florida

Yehuda Chelminsky likes to eat out at South Florida restaurants and wants to know if his restaurant of choice gets a clean inspection.

He believes a grading system would help him and diners like him.

"There should be a grading because people should be aware that this restaurant keeps clean," Chelminsky said.

Shiri Franco agrees. She wants her customers to know what's happening in the kitchen of her Davie restaurant.

"Even as a consumer, I want to know is going in the back," Franco said.

Her restaurant, Sunrise Pita and Grill in Davie, met the state's inspection standards during its latest inspection and had zero violations when inspected in June.

In Florida, restaurants are inspected by the state at least once a year. These inspections are posted online for consumers to see, but some say there should be an easier way to know what is happening behind the counter.

In New York City, Los Angeles and South Carolina, inspection results are posted as letter grades, but there is no grading system in Florida.

In Florida, inspectors use a 53-point checklist to record violations.

Franco says her customers wouldn't know how well they do on inspections because many don't take the time to look them up.

"They can see all inspections but most of the time people don't do that," Franco said.

State inspectors can order a restaurant to temporarily close for things like roach and rodent problems, sewage, food temperature and other critical violations.

"The ones that have an immediate threat to the public health are items that will get a food establishment closed," said Geoff Luebkemann with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.

He says the FRLA does not support a letter grading system because he believes it would reduce the state's robust inspection report into a simple A,B, or C doesn't tell the whole story.

"There is a jurisdiction in the northeast where the presence of one live rodent will get you an A on their grading scale, and you remain open and selling to the public. In Florida, that same condition would get the business closed," Luebkemann said.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the agency that regulates restaurants, agrees.

"DBPR's Division of Hotels and Restaurants inspection reports are a 'snapshot' of conditions present at the time of the inspection. On any given day, an establishment may have fewer or more violations than noted in their most recent inspection. An inspection conducted may not be representative of the overall, long-term conditions at the establishment. Because conditions can change rapidly, establishments are not graded or rated. Grades may not truly reflect past performance, and do not guarantee future performance. Posting of grades can impart a false sense of security or inaccurate understanding of risk for the public. Grades simply do not tell the whole story. For these reasons, we do not currently grade or rate public food service establishments. Division inspection results are published in real time on the DBPR website here: https://www.myfloridalicense.com, and on the free DBPR mobile app available on Google Play or iTunes."

Besides looking online, consumers can also request a copy of a restaurant's recent inspection simply by asking for it. In Florida, a food establishment must have a copy of the latest inspection report and if you ask for it they must provide it.

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