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The new food safety rating system improves how Public Health - Seattle & King County rates food safety in restaurants and how that information will be available to you.

The new rating system is:

  • easy to understand
  • advances food safety, and is
  • equitable to food businesses

A restaurant's food safety rating will now be displayed on a sign on a restaurant’s window. The signs will help you easily understand how a restaurant practices food safety on any given day. The ratings and full inspection history will be available starting on January 17, 2017 and also provided as open data.

Food safety ratings available online

Food safety rating categories

Restaurants will now receive one of four food safety ratings to provide the public with more information about the level of a restaurant’s food safety practices, helping them make informed decisions about eating out. If a restaurant is open for business it meets minimum food safety standards to operate.

The four food safety ratings are:

  • Needs to Improve: The restaurant was either closed by Public Health – Seattle & King County within the last year or the restaurant needed multiple return inspections to fix food safety practices.

  • Okay: The restaurant has had MANY red critical violations over the last four inspections.

  • Good: The restaurant has had SOME red critical violations over the last four inspections.

  • Excellent: The restaurant has had No or Few red critical violations over the last four inspections.

Food safety rating emoji

What is behind a restaurant’s rating?

A restaurant’s rating category is determined by three main components:

  • Trend of food safety practices over time. Good food safety needs to be practiced every day. The food safety rating window signs will reflect how well a restaurant has performed over time, not just on a single inspection. A restaurant’s food safety rating will be determined by the average of red critical violation points from a restaurant’s last four routine inspections.

  • Scale of performance. King County residents want to know more than if a restaurant passes or fails an inspection. The restaurant window signs will show how well the restaurant practices food safety beyond meeting the minimum standard.

  • Rating on a curve. Consumers tend to dine locally by their zip code or area. Rating on a curve provides accurate and useful information to consumers about how well a restaurant performs on food safety compared to restaurants nearby. Also, Restaurants within an area tend to have the same food inspector. Our inspectors go through extensive training and all focus on food safety. Even with the training, they may still have slightly different inspection styles. Rating on a curve helps compensate for differences in inspection rating style.

    Each restaurant’s average score is compared with other restaurants within the same zip code or area. The rating on a curve applies to the top 3 categories. Here is the approximate breakdown of the percentage of restaurants that fall into each category:

Here is the approximate breakdown of the percentage of restaurants that fall into each category: 50% ‘Excellent,’ 40% ‘Good’ and 10% ‘Okay.’ The ‘Needs to improve’ category is not rated on a curve.

Emoji image interpretation

Developing the new food safety rating system

Public Health - Seattle & King County gathered recommendations, priorities and concerns from restaurant operators, food safety experts, diverse language speaking communities and communities of color.  This feedback combined with research, informed the development of the new Food Safety Rating System.

Public Health received feedback from the public and industry about the new system

Designing the restaurant window sign

Six window sign designs were reviewed by communities across King County to make sure they were easy to understand by people of many different cultures and by people who speak many different languages. We organized community meetings and visited over 100 restaurants to gather feedback on the window sign designs and to understand community priorities regarding the new rating system. An online survey, available in English and seven other languages, also gathered feedback on the restaurant window sign designs. The restaurant window signs include a number to text to learn more about what a restaurant’s rating means. This information is available in Amharic, Cantonese, English, Korean, Mandarin, Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese.

We’ve received over 3,500 responses! Thank you for your feedback. We used your feedback to inform the designer of the final sign.

Finalized food safety rating poster

Equity and fairness is important to Public Health — Seattle & King County

The new Food Safety Rating System was designed to advance equity and fairness. Here are some ways we incorporated equity and fairness into our system.

  • Our rating methods were designed to fairly measure a restaurant’s food safety practices by focusing on trend over time, scale of performance and rating on a curve.

  • We listened to the concerns of restaurant operators about food safety inspection consistency. To address this concern we provided extra training and started peer review inspections where staff conduct inspections side by side to learn from each other. This helps make inspectors more consistent with each other.

  • The development of the Food Safety Rating System was a collaborative process which included extensive outreach to restaurants, communities, food safety experts and King County residents.

Our food safety rating system will be evaluated in collaboration with community partners. We are committed to making changes based on evaluation results in order to advance equity and fairness.

Public Health hosted a series of open public meetings to gather feedback

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