From the office of Supervisor Mary Nejedly Piepho
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors approved this week an ordinance requiring restaurants and other food facilities to post color-coded placards that clearly signal to customers how they perform on inspections.
Supervisors Mary Nejedly Piepho and John Gioia have been working with the County Environmental Health staff to develop a program that is similar to programs underway in other Bay Area Counties.
According to Supervisor Piepho, “The Green, Yellow and Red placards provide customers with an easy and visible indication of how the facility performed on its most recent inspection. It puts more information in the hands of the customers so they can make safe decisions about where they choose to eat.”
The Green placard means 0-1 significant violations, a Yellow indicates that there are two or more violations, while a Red means that the environmental health permit has been suspended and the facility has an immediate health hazard that will take time to correct.
In developing the program, County Environmental Health staff studied other Bay Area ordinances and received feedback from 25 food facility operators who served as focus groups. Alameda, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Marin and Sonoma Counties use a similar system. Environmental Health officials also sent information about the ordinance to 4,000 county food facilities and invited them to five meetings, which were held in December 2015.
The placard program is part of the County’s robust system of food safety. Currently, restaurants are inspected two to three times per year. The new placards will start being posted as soon as April 15 of this year. Some, such as supermarkets with delis and bakeries, will have multiple placards depending on the section of the business.
The County’s free smartphone app, called “Food Inspector,” uses GPS to provide users with instant, detailed inspection information about nearby restaurants and is available at cchealth.org/placard and is downloadable for iOS or Android through Apple’s iTunes Store or Google’s Play Store.
Contra Costa County Environmental Health will offer training for those restaurants and other food facilities that repeatedly struggle to obtain green placards.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 40 percent of the estimated 47 million food-borne illness outbreaks in the United States each year originate in retail food establishments.