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.)