On the table for discussion: Scores for restaurants.
An advisory group of restaurant owners, health professionals, and consumers officially met for the first time today to discuss the positives and negatives of a restaurant scoring system in Santa Clara County.
The group was created after an NBC Bay Area investigation exposed Silicon Valley restaurants ignoring a state law that requires them to show customers an inspection report when asked. The Investigative Unit also showed restaurants are not scored or graded and do not have to post inspection reports.
The group's purpose is to determine if and what kind of scoring or grading system would work best for Santa Clara County restaurants and restaurant goers and to pass on these recommendations to the Board of Supervisors.
The board will ultimately vote on whether or not to implement a system.
The Director of the Consumer Protection Division at Santa Clara County's Department of Environmental Health, Heather Forshey, led the discussion today, emphasizing the goal: to protect public health.
"We're here because the Board of Supervisors got this group together to evaluate the feasibility of a placarding system," Forshey said.
The group discussed the benefits of placarding for groups affected by a scoring system: consumers, food operators and regulators.
The group cited positives of a score or grade in restaurant windows such as simplifying inspection information for consumers, positive financial rewards incentivizing food operators and a sense of pride in the work of the regulators or inspectors.
"I think it's very important that we have a distinction between acceptable and exceptional," Scott Brunson, a member of the advisory group who teaches food safety courses a Mission College in Santa Clara, told NBC Bay Area. "The consumers need to know."
The group also wrote out some potential setbacks of having restaurants scored.
Some concerns expressed: Bribes or a breakdown in rapport between inspectors and restaurants, potential costs to restaurant owners and inaccurate or confusing information for consumers.
Participants told NBC Bay Area it's an important discussion to have.
"The fact that they’re having this meeting is real positive," Brad Imamura, a former Environmental Health Inspector, told NBC Bay Area.
He believes any new program will meet some initial resistance, but is looking forward to working toward additional transparency for restaurants.
"My hope is that the public is going to be much more comfortable whenever they go out, in this case go to a food facility or restaurant, that they will know that they meet certain standards."
The group will meet again at the end of June.
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