NYC Restaurants Set To Adopt ABC Grading System


subwayEvery year, it’s estimated that 7,000 New Yorkers end up in the hospital after eating a meal out at a restaurant. Now the Health Department is hoping a lesson in ABCs may change all that.

Is it a good idea or a recipe for disaster?

Anthony Casabianca has been creating pasta dishes and more from his little West Side pizzeria for a decade. But he’s worried he may be forced to close down if he loses customers to a new grading system.

“I can’t keep up. I can’t pay a rent, I can’t make a livelihood and then pay them these outrageous numbers,” Casabianca said.

Starting next month, letter grades of A, B or C will be plastered on the front of each of New York City’s 24,000 restaurants.

“They provide an incentive for the restaurant to improve food safety practices,” Health Department Commissioner Thomas Farley said.

The department cooked up the idea to keep restaurant diners safer, modeling it after Los Angeles’ system that was enacted 12 years ago.

“After letter grade system went into place they had about a 25 percent reduction in the number of people hospitalized with food-related illnesses,” Farley said.

Restaurants getting three violations earn a B — anything from a cutting board with score marks to food held at improper temperatures.

Five or six violations earn a C rating.

Bs and Cs get a follow-up inspection shortly after and a chance to bump up their grade. B and Cs will be inspected every five to seven months, versus the annual inspection for earning an A.

But restaurants and the industry argue the difference between seeing an A or a C could make such a difference in the bottom line that restaurants could be forced to close their doors.

“A ‘B’ could be the difference between profitable or not. It could close restaurants down. We suspect for some it will,” said Rob Bookman of the New York State Restaurant Association.

The restaurant industry has been fighting letter grades for two years, saying it hurts an industry that helps serve up a billion meals per month.

“It’s a silly gimmick that has nothing to do with either food safety or public health,” Bookman said.

But diners said it will help them make choices.

“I would pretty much, with my child, would only wanna eat at an A establishment,” said Christine Kalina of Riverdale.

Giving all of us something to chew over.

Although the grades will start rolling out next month, the New York State Restaurant Association may still file a lawsuit to try and stop it.

{WCBS-TV/Noam Newscenter}