The Grapevine

'Cleaner Than Ever': 95% Of New York City Restaurants Earning An 'A' In Food Safety

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Nearly all of the Big Apple's restaurants are earning an 'A' in food safety, the city's health department happily reports. Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

New York City: It’s apparently now the city that picks up after itself.

The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene earlier today reported that the city’s restaurants are the cleanest they’ve ever been, with 95 percent of eateries managing to earn an 'A' grade from its health inspectors, an increase from 80 percent just five years ago.

In 2011, the city began to institute a sort of public shaming policy on the food inspection scores it handed out to restaurants, forcing owners to loudly advertise their grades on the windows that greeted its customers. But they also allowed restaurateurs ample opportunities for improvement, not only by permitting them to spruce up their restaurants and try again within thirty days in case they failed to nab an 'A' the first time, but by offering supervisors courses in proper food preparation.

"Over the last five years, restaurant letter grading has successfully motivated restaurants to practice better food safety," said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett in a statement by the department. "You see this as you walk down any street in the City. The large number of 'A' grades that are proudly displayed means that restaurants are attaining excellent compliance with food safety regulations, which has reduced the likelihood of foodborne illness and made dining out safer for all New Yorkers."

Specifically, the number of critical violations, those which may endanger public health and spread foodborne illness, has dropped by 11 percent compared to five years ago; the incidence of reported mice infestations has dropped by 18 percent; and the number of annual reported Salmonella cases has declined by 24 percent. The number of restaurants which obtain an 'A' during the initial inspection has also steadily improved, from 37 percent to 58 percent.

And for their part, many owners appear to enjoy the prestige and transparency those stellar grades provide. "The letter grading program has evolved for the better over the last five years," said Justin Dambinskas, whose family owns Ice House Café in the Bronx, in the same press statement. "An A is looked upon favorably. if a customer doesn’t see an A, they’ll walk away. If you do your due diligence and earn that A, it gives people confidence in your restaurant."

Dambinskas’ sentiments about his customers are supported by a 2012 Baruch College telephone survey which the Health Department cited that found that 91 percent of New Yorkers approve of restaurant grading and that 88 percent use grades in making their dining decisions.

Overall, it seems like it’s never been a better time to grab a bite in the Big Apple.

 
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