Orange County weighs color-coded restaurant inspection grading

Mar 17, 2014

Orange County restaurants currently display health ratings, but don’t use letter grades, like many other major municipalities nationwide. The county is now considering a color-coded system

; Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

Orange County—which has long used small, subtle orange decals to inform restaurant patrons how establishments fared on health inspections—is now considering a simpler, more noticeable color-coded system, the Los Angeles Times reports.

An Orange County grand jury recommended the stoplight-style color code in a report released earlier this month. County leaders have considered instituting a letter grade system, like the one in place in Los Angeles County, but cost concerns prevented the change.

Under the proposed color-coded system, a green sign would be used to designate a restaurant that passed inspection, a yellow sign would indicate the restaurant passed conditionally and is due for reinspection, and a red sign would mean the restaurant was closed due to major violations.

The report argues that the color code would be cheaper to put in place than a letter grade system, as it better aligns with the County’s current inspection protocols.

Some critics of the color code are concerned it’s too out of step with neighboring L.A. County and other municipalities—and could confuse customers. The Orange County Board of Supervisors has about three months to officially respond to the report.

Do you pay attention to the health inspection placards in the windows of restaurants you visit? What system do you think is best? Would you prefer a stoplight color code system to letter grades? How would such a system impact businesses?


Christine Bruhn, professor of food science and technology at UC Davis

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