How restaurants earn their letters

Published: July 1st, 2010

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by Julissa Cardenas

The letters “A,” “B” or “C” are like test student test grades: 90-100 is an “A,” 80-89 is a “B,” and 70-79 is a “C.” These grades are awarded by a point system comprised of five sections. The inspector deducts points for violations of the regulations.

Understandably, since the grades are posted for all to see, restaurants strive for the “A” and try to earn it by passing a five-part inspection. Section one includes serious health concerns such as vermin, food temperature and water sanitization. Food temperature is important to the safety of customers. For example, eggs, or food containing raw eggs needs to be heated to 145°F, while pork needs to be heated to 155°F. Aside from food temperature, a vermin problem should be non-existent in any restaurant.

Thawing methods, diligent food preparation and the proper sanitizing of utensils are only a small portion of section two. The maximum deduction here is 28. Included are stored items such as chemicals, containers, kitchen fixtures and food coverage/placement. One violation in section one, and a couple in section two can immediately land a restaurant in the “C” ranking.

Structural violations such as ceilings and walls are inspected in section three, with a maximum deduction of 36. Sink fixtures, pipes, hair restraints and exhaust shells are also inspected. Restaurants need to have proper infrastructure and look neat in order to stay deduction free. These violations are the least serious and rarely damage a restaurant’s grade.

Sections four and five deal with permits, bulletins and food signs warning customers of possible allergic reactions. These two sections do not impact a restaurant’s grade, but corrections still need to be implemented.

Also see the companion story, “Let’s eat out.”

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