Detroit testing voluntary restaurant grading system after ordinance shot down last year

Though a restaurant grading system was shot down last year, Detroit restaurants have a chance to sign up to be part of a health compliance pilot program.

Currently, each restaurant in Detroit usually gets inspected once a year unless there are complaints. After a complaint, the health department inspects within 24 hours.

Under the "Dining With Confidence" program, restaurants that sign up will receive routine inspections by the city health department, which will issue a green placard with the health department logo if the establishment is in compliance and has no serious violations.

That placard would also provide a QR and link that directs diners to more information about the program and food inspections in the city.

Detroit City Council member Scott Benson is spearheading the program after the letter grading system was not approved. The council cited concerns about putting more work on the health department as a reason for the no vote.

"I can't see why anyone would possibly be against this. Detroiters are a first-class people. We deserve clean, healthy, wholesome food and treatment and service," activist Malik Shabazz said at the council meeting last year.

Benson has been pushing for some sort of grading system since 2019 after a hepatitis outbreak at several Metro Detroit restaurants.

This new program is independent of the city council and is strictly voluntary for restaurants. New York City implemented a similar ordinance and a study found it significantly improved customer satisfaction.

However, not everyone is on board with a mandatory grading system, with some fearing it would target minority business owners who don't have funds or staff to keep up with health standards

"The data shows that a similar program that looked at the New York grading system found that it did not, in fact stop the spread of foodborne illness in the city of New York," said Charity Dean, the president and CEO of Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance, during a city council meeting before the council voted last September. 

She also noted that restaurants aren't the only places where people get their food.

"City of Detroit data shows that many restaurants and residents get food, get food from gas stations and grocery stores, which are not covered under this ordinance," she said.

The pilot program will run from October until March, and feedback will be taken from restaurants and customers.

Restaurants interested in participating can sign up here.

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