Health Concerns

Letter Grades Aside, Is the Revised Health Code Actually a Win for Restaurateurs?

The Department of Health published its new health code today, and despite industry outcry, letter-grading procedures are basically the same as they were when originally proposed: Restaurants that get a thirteen and below are given an A and won’t be reinspected for a year; restaurants that get a B (14 to 27 points) or a C (28 points and up, as in these restaurants right here) won’t be graded after their initial inspection, but rather after a reinspection, and if they don’t want to display that grade immediately, they can display a “grade pending” sign while they appeal to a tribunal. After their grade is fixed, B-grade restaurants will be inspected again within 150 to 210 days, and C-grade restaurants will be inspected again within 90 to 150 days. But letter grading isn’t the only change that’s been made to the city health code: There have also been adjustments to certain rules that have long had kitchen workers pulling their hair out (or at least, pulling their hairnets off).

The major revisions are below; we found them by comparing the new Food Service Establishment Inspection Worksheet and Scoring Parameters (you can read both documents in the DOH’s release below) with the old Worksheet and Scoring Parameters.

• Whereas inspectors could previously cite “evidence of roaches,” they now must spot live roaches.
• Whereas “presence of flying insects” was once a violation, the department now admits that’s too broad and is changing it to “filth flies or food/refuse/sewage-associated (FRSA) flies.” Spotting two to five flies at any time of the year used to be an offense, but now the flies will only constitute a violation if they are spotted from between November 1 to March 1 (other times, they could be the result of an open window).
• Whereas establishments were once cited for having “milk or milk product undated, improperly dated, or expired,” it has been deleted from scoring because it “is not sufficiently related to food safety.”
• Nuisance violations (when the “Facility [is] not free from unsafe, hazardous, offensive or annoying condition[s]”), such as the ones cited in the Café Select case, will be cited, but not counted toward scoring.
• Whereas kitchen workers were previously penalized for not wearing hair restraints, the rule now applies only to food-prep areas
• Kitchen workers will no longer be docked points just for having dirty clothes; the clothes must now be soiled with contaminants.
• Garbage cans can now be open in the kitchen so long as they’re being used for active food disposal
• Light bulbs will no longer have to be shatterproof or caged, but permanent lighting will now be required in food prep, washing, and storage areas.
• Whereas a sink with low water pressure was once a violation, it’s now a violation only if the pressure is too low for hand washing.
• The violation “food in contact with utensil, container, or pipe that consist of toxic material” was deleted because it was redundant.
• The following vague categories of violation were deleted because they were deemed unnecessary: “Food Temperature, “Food Source, “Food Protection,” “Facility Design” (another sticking point in the Café Select case) and “Personal Hygiene.”
• Whereas restaurants were previously docked for keeping “severely” dented cans around, they will now be penalized for all dented cans (no matter how severe the dent), unless the can has been segregated from consumable food (previously not an option).
• The following categories of violation were deleted: “Mechanical dishwasher not operated as per manufacturer’s specifications (time/temperature/chemical concentration); machine defective”; and “Immersion basket not provided, used or of incorrect size.”

One question remains: Will the Department continue to assign a hefty number of demerits when restaurateurs fail to keep their HAACP papers in order — something that has vexed restaurants like Monkey Bar and Insieme in the past?


Letter Grades Aside, Is the Revised Health Code Actually a Win for