September 7, 2012

Making the Grade: How restaurants in Champaign County measure up

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There are no national standards for scoring health inspection reports.

What may be passing in one jurisdiction could be considered failing in another jurisdiction.

Up until the mid 1990s, food facilities throughout Champaign County needed to score 70 points or more on a health inspection to be considered passing.

However, county health officials changed the way health inspection reports were scored by deducting points for critical violations and repeat violations from a 100-point scale as a way to penalize food facilities for those violations. (Read related story)

They also reduced the benchmark for a passing score from 70 points to 36 points.

Additionally, they began automatically closing down facilities with scores 0 or lower.

Health officials said the new scoring system has the same effect as the previous scoring system, but with harsher consequences. They also dismiss publishing a letter-grade or scores of restaurant health inspection results.

“I think just publicizing a score may be misleading.  A restaurant score is not the same as a grade on a test for example.  There is more specific information that needs to be communicated,” said public health administrator Julie Pryde.

Los Angeles County in California also deducts points for critical violations and repeat violations.

In the mid 1990s, the health department implemented a grading system based on a 100-point scale and started requiring restaurants to post the resulting letter grade.  Its failing benchmark is any score below 70 percent, or a “C” grade.

The graphic shows an analysis of more than 1,200 inspection reports of food facilities in Champaign County conducted between Sept. 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012.

The results show that if Champaign County were to have a letter-grade inspections system based on a 100-point scale, then nearly four in 10  restaurants score below 70 percent or a “C”grade.