Thursday, January 12, 2012
Council seeks feedback from restaurant owners on City’s food safety inspection process
and new letter grading system.
New York, NY – As part of the City Council’s oversight of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) and in response to mounting concerns raised by city restaurateurs regarding the restaurant inspection process, Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Health Committee Chair Maria del Carmen Arroyo today announced the launch of a comprehensive restaurant inspection survey. City restaurant owners and operators are urged to participate in this Council effort to gather information on food safety inspections, with particular emphasis on the recently implemented letter grading system and its impact on city restaurants. Starting today, the survey is available online at www.surveymonkey.com/restaurantinspection and accessible through the Council’s website at http://www.council.nyc.gov/. The questionnaire will also be available in six different languages. The survey results will provide a foundation for an oversight hearing in late February, where the Council intends to further explore the inspection process and possible areas for reform.
“I am troubled by the wave of complaints the Council has received from restaurants – even the ones that get A’s – about the fairness and inconsistency of the food safety inspection process,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “Any initiative – especially 18 months after establishment – calls for scrutiny. With this survey, we hope to learn more about what is and isn’t working, including whether the grading system has been implemented fairly. The participation of restaurateurs in this analysis is critical, and we look forward to hearing their input.”
Divided into two sections, the first part of the survey seeks background information about the food establishment and solicits views on DOHMH’s inspection process and the letter grading system. The second section requests recent historical data about experiences with inspections and adjudication in administrative tribunals. Specifically, this section seeks details about violations issued during each inspection from 2008 to the present, along with costs accrued in connection with the payment of fines, consultants and improvements. Survey participants are encouraged to answer as many questions as possible.
“As part of our oversight responsibility, we at the Council must ensure that while our Department of Health works to protect the safety and wellbeing of New Yorkers when consuming food prepared in a restaurant, that it does so fairly,” said Health Committee Chair Maria del Carmen Arroyo. “We have received many complaints from restaurateurs to the contrary, and we hope this survey can provide us with data that can help us correct inefficiencies or inconsistencies in the Department’s inspection process.”
“While the response from the public toward the restaurant grading system has been overwhelmingly positive, we need to be sure that restaurant owners are being treated fairly,” said Governmental Operations Committee Chair Gale A. Brewer. “Government needs to work with all concerned parties to create a clear, consistent grading system that serves the public good without harming the financial viability of the city’s restaurants or unfairly stigmatizing them.”
“I fully support educating the general public about the sanitary conditions of our city's restaurants, but we must not forget that the impact of an inappropriately earned low grade can result in community stigma and the potential loss of local jobs,” said Oversight and Investigations Chair Jumaane Williams. “We must balance both of these concerns by ensuring that the DOMHH's evaluation process is fair and consistent across the board. Any effort to achieve this result, including this survey, earns my high marks. I look forward to assisting with this effort at the upcoming oversight hearing.”
In July 2010, DOHMH began requiring food service establishments to post letter grades corresponding with scores reflecting sanitary inspections during which restaurants receive points for violations. An inspection score of 0-13 violation points is an A, 14-27 violation points is a B, and 28 or more violation points is a C. Grade cards are meant to be clearly visible to the public.