POSTED: 9:37 a.m. HST, Oct 18, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 2:21 a.m. HST, Oct 19, 2013
KAILUA-KONA » Finding a safe spot to eat in Hawaii may be as simple as seeing green.
The state health department is proposing posting green, yellow and red placards in restaurants and other establishments to show how they fared in food safety inspections, West Hawaii Today reported today.
In the visible grading system, green placards would mean "pass"; yellow ones, "conditional pass"; and red cards, "closed." A green card will go to facilities that have one major violation or less that's corrected before the inspection is completed. Yellow would be for eateries with two or more violations during an inspection, regardless of whether violations were corrected immediately.
A red card would mean there are imminent health hazards requiring immediate closure.
The department also wants to hire 13 food inspectors. A shortage of workers two years ago meant some Oahu restaurants were inspected only once every 2 Ω years, Sanitation Branch Chief Peter Oshiro said. Some inspectors on Oahu had caseloads of 600 restaurants each; Maui inspectors had about 400 to 500; and Big Island inspectors had about 200.
Randy Botti, lead manager of Sam Choy's Kai Lanai in Kailua-Kona, said a color-coded grading system will help consumers. "It will bring clarity for the customer, but the fleshing out of the details in the inspection need to accompany that to bring clarity to the restaurant establishment, too."
As part of the proposal, state inspection fees would significantly increase. The department is also working on an electronic system to make inspections available online.
"The new food safety rules will mean a huge step forward for our program and will result in overall improvements by expanding food safety testing, pesticide monitoring of local produce and shellfish monitoring, among other activities that protect public health every day," Oshiro said in a statement.
Public hearings will be held in December in Hilo and Kona.