New Food Safety Rating System

New Food Safety Rating System Coming in January, 2017!



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 here and also provided as open data.

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.


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 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 to be open.
  • Rating on a curve. King County residents want to know how well a restaurant practices food safety in comparison to other restaurants within the same neighborhood. Each restaurant’s average score is compared with other restaurants within the same zip code or geographic area.

Here is the approximate breakdown of the percentage of restaurants that fall into each category. The “Needs to Improve” category is not rated on a curve.

pie-chartWhat is a red critical violation?

Those food handling practices that, when not done properly, are most likely to lead to food borne illnesses.


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.

kc-feedback-bubbles 1611_6588w_food_safety_ppt_3

The window sign will be finalized soon!

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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 window sign designs.

We received over 3,500 responses! Thank you for your feedback. We are reviewing the results and the final sign will be announced soon!

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

The new Food Safety Rating System was designed to advance equity and fairness. This is important to us, and we heard from businesses and community members that this is important to them too. 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.

Want to learn more? Check out this video of the Food Program presenting about the rating system to the King County Board of Health.

Learn more about the new Food Safety Rating System:

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