San Mateo, CA: County devises new food safety program

By Julia Reis  |  Half Moon Bay Review


Stepping out for a sit-down dinner or grabbing a quick bite from a food truck? Whether your fare is formal or fast, San Mateo County residents and visitors will soon encounter a new visual tool to help inform their dining decisions.

The county’s health system began rolling out a new restaurant placarding program this month. The signage will be going up throughout the first half of 2016 at more than 3,000 restaurants, mobile food trucks, bakeries, schools, health care facilities and some convenience stores in the county.

Akin to programs in other Bay Area counties, the placards are color coded like traffic lights. A green card means that a restaurant has passed the food safety inspection by having no more than one major violation, which must be corrected during the inspection. A yellow placard means diners should exercise caution because the facility has two or more major violations and will be inspected again within three business days. Red signifies that the restaurant is closed because of issues that endanger the public’s health and safety. A facility with a red placard will remain closed until its conditions are corrected.

The program was approved by the county Board of Supervisors in April 2015.

“This program will help consumers quickly understand a restaurant’s food safety status and give restaurant operators a chance to show off their successful commitment to food safety,” said San Mateo County Environmental Health Services Director Heather Forshey in a prepared statement.

According to a county handout for local operators, a major violation is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention risk factor that contributes to foodborne illness outbreaks. Those risk factors include inadequate cooking, poor personal hygiene and contaminated equipment, among others. Closure criteria, as well as the inspection procedure, remains the same through this new placarding program.

Placards will be required to be posted in clear view of those entering the facility.

In advance of the program rollout, the county held several “How to Get Green” training sessions in several languages for food facility operators.

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