By: Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer
On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted to direct the Orange County Health Care Agency to prepare a proposal for a color-coded restaurant rating system to be brought to the Board no later than May 20. This system would replace the County’s existing system, where restaurants are simply described as “Pass,” “Reinspection Due – Pass,” and “Closed” on Health Care Agency placards posted in publicly-visible places in restaurants.
“I still prefer a letter-grade based system, so that Orange County will not be out of step with all of our neighboring counties,” Supervisor Todd Spitzer said. “However, a color-coded system is still a good step forward to replace our outdated restaurant rating system adopted 15 years ago.”
In May 1999, Supervisor Spitzer then proposed implementing a letter-grade restaurant rating system similar to those used in other Southern California counties. However, after he convened stakeholder discussions between the Board of Supervisors, the Health Care Agency, and restaurant representatives, he agreed to implement a three-tiered system that remains in place today, with some slight modifications.
One of the modifications was implemented after a 2008 vote by the Board of Supervisors: the large bold “Pass,” “Reinspection Due – Pass,” and “Closed” word descriptors were added to replace smaller sentence-long descriptors. Supervisor John M. W. Moorlach had pushed for a color-coded system in 2008 similar to the one being proposed in 2014. The color-coded system fell one vote short of passage in December 2008, so the current system with the large bold word descriptors was passed as a compromise.
The Orange County Grand Jury issued a report in March proposing that the County move away from the ambiguous system currently in place. The Grand Jury suggested utilizing a green-yellow-red system that many Northern California counties use. The County response to the Grand Jury is due in June.
The proposed green-yellow-red placards would also have word descriptors placed in the middle of the placards in order to assist those unfamiliar with the color-coded system and to assist the colorblind. The Grand Jury suggested “Pass,” “Conditional Pass,” and “Closed” as the word descriptors (with “Conditional Pass” replacing “Reinspection Due – Pass” from the current system). The Health Care Agency has not yet determined the phrasing of the word descriptors for the placards in the proposal that will be brought to the Board of Supervisors within the next three weeks.