Restaurant owners and managers in the only Colorado county using letter grades to report food safety inspections to the public say that the new scoring is more punitive than informative. On Wednesday, they met with the Weld County Commission in Greeley, CO, to argue that restaurant food safety is just too complicated for the public to understand, and that letter grades posted online give customers an unfair, moment-in-time report. Weld County implemented A-F letter grades for restaurant inspections late last year for the 4,000-plus-square-mile area north of the Denver International Airport and south of the Wyoming-Colorado border. The area contains about 2,650 restaurants and other types of food and beverage establishments. lettergradeWhile it is only one of the 35 local jurisdictions doing restaurant inspections throughout Colorado, Weld County is the only one to have adopted letter grades. All the others use adjectives such as Excellent, Good, Fair, Poor, and Unacceptable. Other aspects of Weld County’s restaurant inspection and scoring system have not changed since 1999. Since switching to letter grades, Weld County has prominently displayed its restaurant inspections on the county’s website. A search can be conducted in a variety of ways, including by name, city, timeframe, or inspection grade. A search is also possible for restaurants without violations. When an individual restaurant file is opened, it typically contains the inspections for the past two or three years with the date of the inspection and that letter grade listed. But whether that is too little or too much information getting through to the public, restaurant owners and mangers, including a local representative of the Colorado Restaurant Association, clearly don’t like it. One Evans, CO, restaurant owner said that her recent “C” grade was for having “the wrong piece of equipment “ that didn’t have anything to do with food preparation or serving. She did not mention that the improper piece of equipment was a backflow device to prevent water-sewer backups, or that her establishment also had critical violations for not labeling chemicals, not storing chemicals properly, and for food coolers with temperatures well above minimum safe levels. A pub and grill owner, who failed an inspection two years ago, said the public does not understand what each violation means, and that restaurants can be charged with a violation for having a dented can on a shelf.  (This is true if the dent is on the seam side of the can.) The Weld County commissioners, all Republicans, promised they would hold another meeting with the restaurant representatives over their objections to letter grades. Meanwhile, state and local officials expect to conduct their own review with help from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.