PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – From the beginning of Monday’s meeting of the Allegheny County Health Department board, some restaurant owners raised questions about a process that would change the current system right now an eating place either gets the sticker of approval or a warning that sends the restaurant on the road toward a shutdown for the most serious of violations.

During public comment time, John Graf, representing the Pennsylvania Restaurant Lodging Association told the board, “As Ross Perot said, ‘the devil’s in the details’ and right now we don’t know what the details are. I don’t think this board does either.”

But the board approved the first steps in a plan that would grade restaurants based on a point system of health department compliance.

The more serious the violations the lower the score from A to B to C.

A restaurant would still be in operation with a C but would have a chance to improve in the first months before the grade system is fully implemented.

Dr. Lee Harrison, the board chair, says a grading system can be a win-win situation as restaurants strive to improve their grades.

“Basically the public is going to see in very clear terms how restaurants did on their inspections,” says Harrison. “What that’s going to allow them to do is basically see whether restaurants are keeping up with the regulations in terms of what they’re required to do.”

But Graf still has concerns.

“If they were to come in at a time that is a very busy food serviceable, some coolers may be out of temperature because they’re open and closed on a hot day and that inspection just happened to come in at lunchtime well then that could be one of these violations that they’re talking about but it really doesn’t go to the safety of the food that’s being presented,” he said.

The board says its goal is to implement the plan by September, continually seeking input from the food service community. But a lot more details have to be worked out before then.

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