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Health Code Ratings


rjwong
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Here's the link to: Ask the Critic: S. Irene Virbila (NB This link is to a premium section of the LA Times, called calendarlive.com, which requires an additional fee)

As I was reading today's LA Times for the food digest, S. Irene Virbila was answering a question in her "Ask the Critic" section about those health code ratings (or "establishment ratings") given to retail food establishments by the County of Los Angeles Department of Health Services - Public Health.

Here's the actual question and Irene's initial answer:

Question: What influence would a restaurant's health code rating have on your reviews and personal dining?

Virbila: Honestly, I don't pay much attention to the health code rating.

Irene considers these ratings as a snapshot on the day the inspector came for inspection. And fast-food restaurants have the highest ratings. Why? The food's not made from scratch; they just go from freezer to microwave or oven.

Irene concludes:

I eat out six nights a week in all sorts of places and have never gotten sick from a restaurant. And I eat everything.

I don't pay much attention to those ratings either, especially in Chinese restaurants. I remember that long time ago, the County of LA wanted to closed down some Chinese restaurants or cite them for health code violations because of how they were preparing Peking duck!!!

Mind you, when I go to a Chinese restaurant and I see an "A" rating posted outside the restaurant, I do get a little concern. Why? To me, that restaurant paid too much money for that health code rating. :laugh:

Those health code ratings are no big deal to me. As Irene said, it's just a snapshot. What is important is how the restaurant is doing week in-week out, over a period of months & years, and not just on one day that happens to go bad.

I go along with Irene on this one. What's your response?

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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I agree, the Thai restaurant here in Lancaster that is my favorite, got a B rating because they don't have a new code grease trap.

The thing is that their main parking is behind the restaurant and most of the customers can walk through the kitchen (on one side, against a wall) and see everything that goes on in there, insures that the regulars know the place is clean, the cooks ditto and there is no pathogen that could live at the temps where the food is cooked. Sometimes the place is so foggy with steam that you practically need a guide to get through to the dining room.

I have been in the place early in the morning (I did a portrait of their grandmother) and they were steam-cleaning the floor and walls. Good enough for me!

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Actually, I have used that database and if you do a search, in the result set, you can click on the "more info" button for each restaurant and find out exactly what the C rating is for.

If I see the word "vermin", I ain't going. But sometimes the C rating is for stuff like "no wiping rag", "storage", "labels" etc that doesn't pose as much of a health or yuck factor to the customer.

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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I do the same - I check to see what the violation was for before dining. It's also interesting to watch local restaurants and the health codes in the windows and how they change. That's more of a hobby, though. :wink:

Kathy

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. - Harriet Van Horne

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  • 2 months later...

In the Vancouver Forum, we are having a discussion about the Health Dept. and the website that they have that lists all of the reports and violations. THe last time I was in L.A., I saw a bunch of certificates in the windows of some establishments listing if they were an "A", "B" or "C" restaurant. Is that rating system still in effect ? Was it city or state wide ? What did you think of it and did a restaurants cleanliness rating affect your choice of dining there or not. I recall thinking that it was brilliant and somewhat self policing - who wanted to be a "C" restaurant and who wanted to eat in one. Does anyone have any insight or experience with this ?

Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

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Neil,

Nice of you to visit the California forum.

Here's a link to the discussion thread I started on LA County Health Code Ratings.

In the thread, I included a link to the specific county agency that does these restaurant inspections (NB the levels of government in CA are: city -- county -- state).

Go ahead & have a look. If you have more questions/comments, you know where to post, ehh?

BTW Neil, please visit LA again.

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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What did you think of it and did a restaurants cleanliness rating affect your choice of dining there or not. I recall thinking that it was brilliant and somewhat self policing - who wanted to be a "C" restaurant and who wanted to eat in one. Does anyone have any insight or experience with this ?

I have experience with it from both sides. And I like it. I don't eat at B or C places. Mostly because I know what it takes to get an A. It's not that hard. Basic hygeine for crying out loud. Less than an A and I know the place is gross and careless.

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I recall thinking that it was brilliant and somewhat self policing - who wanted to be a "C" restaurant and who wanted to eat in one. Does anyone have any insight or experience with this ?

We don't have the letter grades in Sacramento County but we do have the online look-up thingie. If we did, I don't see it really affecting where I would eat, depending on what cuisine I was going for.

For a nicer place, sure, I'd look for a A. But, ask yourself...would you expect a place like Hon's to have an A?

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I grew up in San Diego where they also have the letter grade system and then moved to Bakersfield where they don't have such a system (inspection results are, instead, published in the local paper). So it's definitely not a state-wide policy. As rjwong mentioned, I also believe it's a just county policy, which may differ from county to county.

I'm all for the letter grade system. The restaurants are required to place their grade in plain sight so you always know what you're getting yourself into when you walk into a place to eat. I have turned away from "C" places before. I don't care if it's an old haunt of mine that I've been going to for years. Remember that the letter/grade reflects not only sanitary conditions but also food-handling conditions. So it's doubly serious.

Some argue against the letter grade system, stating that it's only a picture of a single day's visit by the local health inspector and can't really reflect overall sanitary/food-handling conditions. I think it does...call it the Law of Averages...that a one day inspection will reflect food handling and sanitary conditions over all days.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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I recall thinking that it was brilliant and somewhat self policing - who wanted to be a "C" restaurant and who wanted to eat in one. Does anyone have any insight or experience with this ?

We don't have the letter grades in Sacramento County but we do have the online look-up thingie. If we did, I don't see it really affecting where I would eat, depending on what cuisine I was going for.

For a nicer place, sure, I'd look for a A. But, ask yourself...would you expect a place like Hon's to have an A?

Jensen , If you are referring to HOn's on Robson Street - I would expect it to have an "A". I have always found that place very clean, and am more amazed becuase of the sheer volume of people and product moving through there.

Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

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They actually did pretty well on their last one, according to the health board website:

"In Compliance - Food

Food handling practices appear to be satisfactory.

Refrigeration temperatures are satisfactory (< 4 degrees C / 40 degrees F).

Freezer temperatures are satisfactory (< -18 degrees C / 0 degrees F).

Mechanical dishwashing procedure is satisfactory (final rinse water temperature is > 77 degrees C / 170 degrees F for 10 seconds, measured at the dish; or >82 degrees C/179 degrees F, measured at the manifold).

Handwashing facilities are satisfactory.

Food storage practices appear to be satisfactory.

Sanitation of premises is satisfactory.

Inadequate Hot Holding of Potentially Hazardous Food(s)

The hot holding case for bbq chicken measured a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. Informed supervisor to remove all bbq chicken and store in the oven in the kitchen until a temperature of 60 degrees Celsius is maintained.

The hot holding case temperature must be maintained at 60 degrees Celsius."

That hot holding case does seem to be a perpetual issue for them though - cited in the last 3 reports (2/2/2004, 10/7/2004, and 2/17/2004).

So would that be a B? :wink:

Cheers!

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They actually did pretty well on their last one, according to the health board website: 

"In Compliance - Food

Food handling practices appear to be satisfactory.

Refrigeration temperatures are satisfactory (< 4 degrees C / 40 degrees F).

Freezer temperatures are satisfactory (< -18 degrees C / 0 degrees F).

Mechanical dishwashing procedure is satisfactory (final rinse water temperature is > 77 degrees C / 170 degrees F for 10 seconds, measured at the dish; or >82 degrees C/179 degrees F, measured at the manifold).

Handwashing facilities are satisfactory.

Food storage practices appear to be satisfactory.

Sanitation of premises is satisfactory.

Inadequate Hot Holding of Potentially Hazardous Food(s)

The hot holding case for bbq chicken measured a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. Informed supervisor to remove all bbq chicken and store in the oven in the kitchen until a temperature of 60 degrees Celsius is maintained.

The hot holding case temperature must be maintained at 60 degrees Celsius."

That hot holding case does seem to be a perpetual issue for them though - cited in the last 3 reports (2/2/2004, 10/7/2004, and 2/17/2004). 

So would that be a B?  :wink:

Cheers!

It is a goof thing that nothing is ever held in there. At the rate they go through it, the chicken are momentarily passing through.

If I am not mistaken, these huys have a different kitchen for the vegetarian cooking.

Neil Wyles

Hamilton Street Grill

www.hamiltonstreetgrill.com

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Jensen , If you are referring to HOn's on Robson Street - I would expect it to have an "A". I have always found that place very clean, and am more amazed becuase of the sheer volume of people and product moving through there.

Actually, I was thinking of the Hon's in New West and/or Chinatown. I've never been to the one on Robson...

Edited to add this:

I would think that it would be extremely difficult for a place like Hon's to maintain an A rating due to a combination of volume and type of cooking. Most of the foods are steamed or fried...either way, you're talking about lots of grease floating around in the atmosphere.

When I worked at Hydro (Edmonds), we used to go to the Hon's on 6th St. every Friday for lunch. It was always packed and, although "clean", there was always a film of grease on things (notably the floor). If it hadn't been so busy, the ever-busy staff would have had more time presumably to keep the floor and what-not cleaner (or, at least, less greasy).

I don't fault Hon's for that and I certainly wouldn't sneer at them as gross or careless but I doubt it would garner them an A rating.

Edited by Jensen (log)
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I would like to add a little something here. LA County DHS ( health dept) has started using the letter grade system to generate fees. I have heard from several of LA's chefs at very well known restaurants that the inspector's work hard to find enough violations to issue a "B" since there is proof that a "B" will affect sales. Specially if it stays up for more than a few days. To avoid this the restaurants can correct any violation ( i.e. No light bulb cover on a lightbulb above the ice machine on a 12 ft ceiling, roll Paper towels not on spindle in the Employee bathroom. Fresh from the grower veggies not in a walk in, Homegrown herb garden not certified by dept of Agriculture. These are some of the violations recently) and request a reinspection for a fee. Or they can wait till their next inspection comes due. They will always pay. This is a predatory practice and is improper at best and illegal at worst. The LA County DHS inspectors do not even have to be in possesion of any degree in Health Sciences.Its as if the Post Office wasn't hiring so they became DHS inspectors. I know some of you are aware of my own recent run in with them so I may seem to harsh. However I spent 5 weeks out of business until I finally got a letter admiting I was OK and could go back to business. No changes demanded no violation found.

Secondly if the food is great and I never get sick I will eat at a "B" with no worries, such as Hua's or Dinos Burgers ( chicken).One well known Raw food place got a "C" for not keeping fresh veggies for the juicer in a refrigerator and not cooking ( even though it is a Raw restaurant) certain things to above 140 degrees.

David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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I would like to add a little something here. LA County DHS ( health dept) has started using the letter grade system to generate fees. I have heard from several of LA's chefs at very well known restaurants that the inspector's work hard to find enough violations to issue a "B" since there is proof that a "B" will affect sales. Specially if it stays up for more than a few days.

Why am I not surprised? When I went to the Health Dept.'s website, I typed in a name of one of the famous restaurants in LA (I'm not telling) and on one recent occasion, they got a "B" rating. But, a month later, that restaurant had another inspection and got a perfect "A" rating of 100! I think I'll go there now. :wink:

I have no problems eating at a restaurant with a non-"A" rating. Even the LA Times food critic, S. Irene Virbila, isn't concerned about those ratings. She wrote that she eats out six nights a week and she has never gotten sick. "And I eat everything."

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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I've been to Hon's on Robson, one time. Yeah, they have this separate little sort of open kitchen you could see from your seat, for the vegetarian foods, as well as areas for other types of dishes, I forget exactly what was where. Hon’s may not get an “A” in the LA County system, but I thought it was quite clean especially for a place that did the kind of business this one does.

--edited to get rid of irrelevant crap.--

I mostly pay attention to the LA Health Dept ratings when I look up a lower grade (like C). If I see vermin anything, I stay away until situation has changed. I see no reason to patronize a place that has rats. Otherwise, I ignore B’s and after checking, I usually ignore C’s. I mean if the hand towel is not in the correct position or whatever, who cares. Wiping rag? My favorite dim sum house, Sea Harbour on Rosemead (yes part of the Vancouver chain, haha) had a C rating recently. I haven’t gotten sick here and I suspect I never will. The Nogales branch still has a B rating though, FYI.

However, I’m sorry but as a consumer, I do like this system. A C rating does definitely get attention from me.

Edited by jschyun (log)

I love cold Dinty Moore beef stew. It is like dog food! And I am like a dog.

--NeroW

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It's not that hard to get an A. I'm not "sneering" when I say less than that is gross or careless.

I have heard from several of LA's chefs at very well known restaurants that the inspector's work hard to find enough violations to issue a "B"

I have heard from several of LA's chefs that the health department conducts an initial visit, notes corrections that need to be made then conducts a "surprise" visit later to ensure that the corrections have been made.

I do recall that horrible scandal a few years involving one inspector who blackmailed mom and pop Asian restaurant owners.

I would like to add a little something here. LA County DHS ( health dept) has started using the letter grade system to generate fees.

If that's true than a thorough investigation should be conducted. With enough evidence I don't think it would be that hard. Will these chefs sign a letter of complaint? I assume these chefs aren't non-English speaking immigrants who are afraid of hassles or reprisals if they question "authority".

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  • 5 months later...

Here's a link to the LA Times Food Section Digest (28 Sept. 2005).

"Where 'A' is Not on the Menu" / by David Pierson

Here's my brief introduction about the article:

Chinese eateries in an L.A. County enclave struggle with hygiene ratings. An inspector knows the challenges unique to the cuisine. Because Los Angeles County health officer Siu-Man Chiu is Chinese, a Hong Kong native.

Russell J. Wong aka "rjwong"

Food and I, we go way back ...

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