As all cities are wont to do, the City of Milwaukee’s Health Department inspects restaurants for cleanliness and health code violations. They create reports that outline what they’ve found and file them. In the 21st Century they post them on line as well. But they are pages and pages long and quite frankly no one looks at them. So following a cue from other big cities around the nation they decided to convert the inspection results into letter grades…you now…like A or B or C? All of us clearly understand what those mean. We’ve all been graded using that scale through out most of our educational years.
This grading system went into effect in January of 2018 and restaurants could post their grades voluntarily. This was essentially a test and starting in 2019 they would be required to post the results. And then all hell broke loose in Madison. Apparently the Wisconsin Restaurant Association didn’t like the idea!
Milwaukee is the only city in Wisconsin to award grades, although cities elsewhere, including New York and Toronto, have similar programs.
The number of critical health violations found by inspectors, which had been increasing, has declined this year, said Claire Evers, director of Milwaukee’s environmental consumer health division.
She credited the improvement to restaurant operators “actively managing now to get better grades.”
Kristine Hillmer, the president and CEO of the WRA, countered that the information is too distilled and open to misinterpretation, and consumers should obtain full inspection reports from searchable databases.
She said the association prefers a simple pass-fail system, in which restaurants that fail and are food-safety risks would be closed to correct the problems.
Hillmer said more than 80 restaurants opposing the grading system have contacted the association but that none wants to be identified, fearing repercussions.
Eighty restaurants oppose the system and don’t want to be identified? I think we really need to know how many of them are actually in Milwaukee and how many are not, fearing the grading system will spread. And are they local restaurants as opposed to fast food joints or fast casual places? I would think with their low cost business plans, entry level employees and mass sourced food products, they are the most likely to pull low grades.
And it’s too distilled? As I said above we all pretty much know how ABC grading systems work. And an A establishment is cleaner than a B. If you want distilled, I think a pass/fail system is even more oblique. And the full reports are going to be clear and easy to understand for the average consumer? I bet not!
So something rather user friendly and consumer oriented gets shat on because the Wisconsin State Legislature and the Governor’s office are in the back pockets of big business. Banning the ABC grades is not in the best interest of consumers and interferes with the operations of the City of Milwaukee, again. When are they going to get out of that cycle?
Anyway, the administration has decided to rule against Milwaukee:
The state Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection on Thursday supported food-rule changes that include barring cities from creating grades of restaurants based on food-safety inspections.
Officials from Milwaukee, the only municipality in the state to issue such grades, had objected to the change, while the Wisconsin Restaurant Association supported it.
The rules now go to the governor for review and approval before being sent to the Legislature for its approval.
Shame on the legislators of the Wisconsin GOP!
BTW: is the oversight of admin rules one of the changes that the legislature going to take away from the governor in their lame duck power grab?