Give Him An A for Effort. OC Supervisor Tries Again to Bring Letter Grades to Restaurants

I was texting my friend who lives in Costa Mesa about the story I was working on for the day and told her there was an effort to bring the letter grade rating system to OC restaurants.

Her reaction? You mean, they don't have that system here? That's right. Orange County is the last in Southern California to have a public rating system for it's eateries.

Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer tried once before to bring those A, B or C letter grades to restaurants, but the effort failed when instead of letters, the proposal called for a color code.

With a new board in place, he's ready to try again. This time, he's got some ammunition. The Orange County Register recently published a report that suggests the number of restaurant closures has gone up as the number of inspections has gone down.

Spitzer believes the public has a right to know, if a restaurant's food safety practices might put them at risk. He also argues, the letter grade system has become universal; no need for Orange County to create a system, less well known.

Restaurants with impeccable food safety standards, like Anqi Bistro, welcome the letter grades. The restaurant has already been given an Award of Excellence by the Health Department, but for Chef Tony Nguyen, an A grade to display in the restaurant's window would give him public affirmation of the food safety practices. He showed us how stored food is raised six inches above the floor to discourage vermin. That's a common reason why restaurants are cited and if the problem is bad enough, shut down. In the kitchen, multiple refrigerators allow for different temperatures, so seafood can be refrigerated at a cooler temperature than the produce.

It's not hard to find the most recent inspection reports by the Orange County Health Department. They're posted regularly on You can also ask a restaurant to show you the most recent report, but really, who's going to bother; much easier to take a glance at the letter grade in the window, before plunking down the dollars for a meal.

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