Color-coded food inspection to start soon

A new food inspection safety system will soon be hitting Hawaii restaurants. The food safety rating system is comprised of a color-coded grading system of red, yellow and green marks.

It is being called a “visible grading system,” by some news outlets, where placards will showcase to customers how their favorite establishment has fared in a recent inspection. The new rules would apply to all food establishments, including fine dining restaurants and convenience stores.

According to some, with this new system, a safe spot to eat is as “simple as seeing green.”

Green placards mean that the restaurant has passed inspection, with one major violation or less that is corrected during the inspection.

Yellow, or a conditional pass, cites that the establishment has two or more major violations. This type of rating would require a follow-up visit.

Lastly, a red mark signals an immediate and dangerous health hazard, prompting the establishment to close.

The results of inspection would be placed in the front of every restaurant and will also be searchable online.

“If we looked at our data currently, probably 60–70% of our routine inspections of high-risk facilities would result in a yellow placard,” said Peter Oshiro in a recent news release. Oshiro is a manager for the Department of Health’s Environmental Health Program. “So this is something where the numbers are way too high and they need to come down.”

In addition to changing the inspection, Hawaii’s health department is aiming to hire more inspectors. A shortage of workers several years ago meant that some restaurants were inspected once every two and a half years.

Restaurants are on board with the change, despite it including an increase for their annual permit fees. The updates to the inspection system will be paid for by these increases, going up from $46 to $200.

“It presents a real sea change of how we are going to regulate food safety in Hawaii. This is very important to us,” Oshiro continued. “We’ve been working on it the past couple years and the bottom line is we’re trying to reduce the occurrences of foodborne illness risk factors in the community.”

The placard system is expected to start in late July.

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