There is nothing more distracting than craving a juicy, succulent, amazing burger in the middle of the day. When you want a burger, you really can’t think of anything else. You get up and decide to go to your usual favorite spot and can’t help but notice a sign on the window. “Sanitary Inspection: Grade Pending.” “Okay, cool.” You think to yourself but as you continue to go back, you realize the sign hasn’t changed. You’d figure that after about a month, their results would be up but they’re not. Two months pass, the same signs still there. It is then when you realize that that your favorite burger joint might never put its results up, which leads you to question…why?
What started in 2010 in southern California has made its way to NYC. The FDA has implemented a food-safety grading system which has the sole purpose of making sure restaurants provide safe food and service to its customers. Now, this is only fair, considering in a city like New York where there is a restaurant (or five) on every block, definitely putting a “subtle” influence on New Yorkers to go out and eat at least once or twice a week.
The least a restaurant can promise its customers is a benign and health-conscious environment. Instead, restaurants make such an effort to hide their disturbing sanitary truths by not posting their true grades.
This grading system holds a lot of bias towards particular restaurants though. Don’t get me wrong, places like McDonalds and Burger King are happy to rave about their A scores. This is because of the all fast food places are meant to follow a certain set of microbial standards. These standards happen to be incredibly easy to follow, with examples such as setting meat temperatures above 160 degrees and using pasteurized milk, my own kitchen could pass them.
Not only that, but then one has to take into consideration the more “high end” restaurants in the city. I mean, they should also be just thrilled about this new grading policy, correct? Not quite…
The way how the grading system works can be seen in the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Principles and Application Guidelines. These set of rules are a lot more rigorous than those of fast food chains, leading to more atomicity from the restaurants end. Though the guidelines seem never ending, the Food and Drug Administration also allows restaurants who get a C or D to put up their grade pending sign and get re-evaluated again months later.
This whole ordeal with grading restaurants has caused nothing but controversy within the food industry. It really is all a matter of who you are willing to trust. Some consumers have taken it upon themselves to dive deep into the dirty laundry of restaurant culture. Dont Eat At, an app developed by a current NYU student, provides a simple analysis of the restaurant of your choice and tells you whether or not they are at risk of being closed down due to health code violations.
Moral of the story: I think I am going to re-evaluate my favorite burger place, with its favorite “Grade Pending” sign in the window.