Restaurant inspection and disclosure programs like the A, B, C system favored by New York City, has a lot of problems: but I wouldn’t want to be the politician who says, this public health data is too complicated for you, so it’s secret.
The challenge is how to best improve disclosure systems.
Artyom Matusov, a city council analyst – not sure what that is — told The NY Post that most restaurants haven’t improved since the city instituted its letter-grade inspection system — a sham that has fattened City Hall coffers but hasn’t produced the public-health improvements touted by the city.
Maybe somewhat over the top, but there’s so many caveats with inspection and disclosure systems that it’s easy pickings.
The city trumpeted data that showed more restaurants got an A grade on their initial inspection since the start of the program.
But that method overrepresents the number of A grades, since A’s will “stick around longer” — up to a year before another inspection.
“The city’s restaurant grading system is completely arbitrary . . . and most restaurants aren’t doing well on the test, which itself is convoluted and impossible to figure out,” Matusov said.
Working for the council’s Governmental Operations Committee, Matusov looked at how each restaurant performed during the initial inspection cycle to see if the new system was having an effect.
He found stagnation — about 30 percent of restaurants got A’s before and after the new system started.
“[The DOH] was saying to us that what we’re seeing is clear progress . . . There’s actually no improvement since before letter grading. It’s flat,” he noted.
“There’s been no improvement to overall health of New York City restaurants. It’s just a runaround game — we’re just trying to plug holes,” said Josh Grinker, chef at Brooklyn’s Stone Park restaurant.
Grinker said there’s no telling which violations, some having nothing to do with food, an inspector will target — for example, the construction of a non-food-contact surface.
“There’s something wrong with a department that’s supposed to be protecting the health of its citizens that isn’t looking at . . . factors that actually might have an impact on people’s health,” he said.
In March, the city tweaked its inspection system, making it less punitive by making a shift toward educating business owners first before fining them.
The DOH refused to answer any questions. The City Council, through spokesman Eric Koch, said that it “continues to monitor the restaurant grading system to ensure that it is effective in keeping restaurants safe for the public and that it is fairly administered.”