Confirmed victory

See this video from King 5 News on how we could make eating out safer in King County.

Each year, 1 in 5 Americans gets food poisoning. This completely preventable illness results from poor food handling. Restaurants are a major source of food poisoning, yet King County's antiquated restaurant inspection ratings website makes it difficult for county residents to easily search and understand if a restaurant has had good or bad inspection ratings. Essentially, these ratings show the progress of a restaurant to maintain high levels of cleanliness and well trained (for food safety) staff.

King County could reduce reported food poisoning hospitalization rates by at least 14% (which is a lot, since most food poisoning cases go unreported or don't make it to the hospital) by creating a "A, B, C..." ratings system, with "A" being highest, and "F" being grounds for closure. These ratings should be posted publicly near the entrance of all restaurants, bars, cafes, and eateries. In addition, these ratings should be made available through open data, allowing websites like Yelp to post restaurant inspection ratings in their websites and apps. So, when you quickly look for a restaurant in your area, you can see how safe it is along with their menu and customer reviews.

Currently, King County Public Health (the agency that manages restaurant inspection ratings) has a website that hasn't been upgraded since the early 2000's, and a convoluted inspection ratings system that confuses consumers. None of these ratings are posted at restaurants. As a result, restaurants that don't adhere to safety standards keep serving food to unknowing customers, and restaurants who are safe and clean don't get rewarded for their work with an "A" rating. Consumers should be able to use transparent, readily available restaurant ratings to drive their purchases, rewarding safer restaurants with more business.

King County Public Health has refused to improve their current website or ratings system, creating small patches that don't meet citizen's needs. In the meantime, more people unknowingly eat at unsafe restaurants and fall ill.

We can prevent food poisoning in King County and set a higher standard for food safety. Sign the petition and tell King County Board of Health to make King County Public Health update its ratings systems and create more transparency in ratings.


(Photo above by woodleywonderworks on Flickr.)

Letter to
King County Councilmember and Chair of King County Board of Health Councilmember Joe McDermott
Section Manager, DPH - Environmental Health Services Division (EHD) Mark Rowe
Seattle City Council Member,Vice Chair representing Seattle City Council Richard Conlin
Foodborne illness causes an estimated 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. Yet in King County, our Public Health Agency maintains an antiquated website that makes it difficult for consumers to find safer restaurants. And, their multi-level ratings system is not user-friendly. These antiquated tools for interpreting restaurant inspection ratings put citizens like me at risk, anytime I eat out.

Studies show that other municipalities reduced foodborne illness by 14% or more in just the first two years of implementing an "A, B, C" ratings system and requiring those ratings to be posted at entrances of restaurants. King County should accomplish these goals and go one step further; make sure ratings are in an open data format that makes it easier for website and mobile app builders to integrate restaurant inspection data. So, when a consumer like me looks up a restaurant or cuisine, I can choose to select the restaurant with the highest ratings. Informed citizens could use the power of the market reward restaurants who use proper food handling techniques.

Foodborne illness can strike any of us, causing extreme illness, and even death. Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable to it. In economic terms, foodborne illness causes $5 to $6 billion in direct medical expenses and lost productivity. While King County has slipped behind on technology and transparency, other municipalities are racing ahead, producing clear websites, implementing a letter ratings system, and partnering with sites like Yelp to publish restaurant inspection ratings. --Don't we deserve better ways to protect ourselves when we dine out?

Thank you for getting behind this issue of improving access to restaurant inspection ratings and helping prevent foodborne illness in King County.