The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors in California has approved a new restaurant placarding program that will make it easier for the public to understand how a restaurant has scored on its most recent food safety inspection. Training for the new system will begin in June, and the program is scheduled to launch in January 2016.

041515-san-mateo-restaurant-grade-placardThe new placarding program uses the same familiar traffic light colors — green, yellow, and red — already on display at restaurants and food outlets in other cities and counties in the Bay Area.

At a glance, customers will be able to spot a green placard for “go,” which means a restaurant passed a food safety inspection, yellow for “caution,” a conditional pass, which means that the facility will be inspected again in one to three days, or red for “stop,” indicating that the facility will be closed until unsafe conditions are corrected.

“I’m proud of the Board of Supervisors for supporting this important public health issue,” said Adrienne Tissier, San Mateo County District 5 Supervisor. “Our residents should always have quick, easy access to all the information they need to make a smart choice about where to eat.”

Placards will be required at approximately 3,000 permanent food facilities that prepare food throughout the county, including restaurants, mobile food trucks, bakeries, schools, licensed health care facilities, and some convenience stores.

County officials hope the new system will provide consistency for food operators with restaurants in multiple counties and will benefit the public by presenting an easy and consistent way to make an informed decision when eating out.

“Foodborne illness is 100-percent preventable, and yet every year, one in six Americans gets sick from foodborne illnesses, and 3,000 people die from them,” said Heather Forshey, director of San Mateo County Environmental Health Services. “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.”

The county had previously required food facilities to post their most recent restaurant inspection reports. However, an investigation last year into a number of restaurants not meeting that requirement resulted in a county civil grand jury recommending the placard system and fines for restaurants which didn’t post them.

Other places now requiring the posted placards include: Hawaii; the California counties of Alameda, Santa Clara, Solano, Contra Costa, Butte, Marin, Sonoma and Orange, and the cities of Sacramento, Berkeley and Pasadena.