To address increasing public interest in food safety, the County of Marin is working toward a new placard system that would let consumers know how a restaurant has scored on recent food inspections. Placards posted near a food facility entrance would mimic a traffic light – green for go (“pass”), yellow for caution ("conditional pass") or red for stop ("closed"). It’s called the “Go For Green” program.
“With a glance at the placard, the public will be able to determine whether it is clean and safe to dine in,” said Rebecca Ng, Deputy Director of the County’s Environmental Health Services (EHS) Division. “The more interest the public shows in restaurant ratings, the more care the restaurants might show in producing a clean environment with safely prepared food.”
The Environmental Health Services Division, overseen by the Marin County Community Development Agency (CDA), plans to request a first reading of the proposed ordinance June 3 at the Marin County Board of Supervisors meeting. A merit hearing would be held June 17 if the Board conducts the first reading. If approved, a trial period would begin in July along with “Go For Green” classes for food facility employees. If all goes well, placards would be visible to consumers starting in January 2015.
EHS’ "Go for Green" program is a key initiative in the division’s 2014-16 performance plan to improve food handling practices and protect food safety and public safety in Marin. Ng said the public has become more interested in food safety with a desire for more information about health conditions at food facilities. Strong ratings tend to increase customer trust and are considered good for business.
The proposed placard program would supplement the online posting of food facility inspection reports at www.marinfoodinspection.org with a posting of the facility's food safety rating at its entrance. Also, a new mobile website for smartphones allows Marin users to find out about health inspection track records of a restaurant before they scan a menu and place an order. “When you’re out, the mobile app makes it easy to check this information as if you were at home on a PC or laptop,” Ng said.
Placard systems are already in place in Sacramento and Alameda counties, and Santa Clara County is considering the system along with Marin. Local food facility operators were invited to a March 2014 meeting to hear about the proposal and provide input. Ng said there is solid support for the placard proposal.
In addition to routine inspections, EHS staff responds to health and safety complaints including reports of food-borne illnesses associated with a food facility. The staff works to prevent the occurrence of food-borne illnesses, promote hygienic food preparation and protect the health of the food workers by encouraging safe and sanitary working conditions.