Boston will soon start assigning letter grades to all restaurants based on their health inspections, The Boston Globe reports. The A, B or C grades will initially only be posted online and may later be displayed in restaurant windows. The system is expected to be put in place early next year. “We want to make it as simple as we can for people to understand the health conditions at our restaurants,” William Christopher, head of the city’s Inspectional Services Department, told the newspaper. Boston joins a number of other jurisdictions across the country, including Los Angeles, already requiring letter grade placards in restaurant storefronts. Other locations, such as Hawaii, issue color-coded placards. New York City began issuing letter grades in 2010, and since then, the city has found that 76 percent of New Yorkers feel more confident eating in an A-grade restaurant and the number of critical violations issued to restaurants has decreased nearly 20 percent. Between 2010 (the last year before grading) and 2013, there was also a 14-percent decline in Salmonella cases in the Big Apple. But not everyone considers restaurant grading systems to be a good thing. One working paper by the American Association of Wine Economists recently published online suggests that restaurant hygiene grade cards in New York City might not reflect the true hygienic quality of restaurants there. The concern is that some restaurants might do just enough to earn an A grade without doing all they could to ensure excellent hygiene. The authors suggest having subcategories within the A grade or posting the underlying scores instead of just the letter grades as a means of dealing with the issue. Then there are also the restaurant owners and managers in jurisdictions such as Weld County, CO, who object to a restaurant grading system because they consider it to be more punitive than informative.
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