The popular use of letter grades for restaurant inspections — used from New York City to Southern California — will be banned in Colorado under a bill that becomes law on Aug. 10. Gov. John W. Hickenlooper allowed the controversial HB 16-1401 to become law without his signature, but instead wrote to the General Assembly about his concerns with it.

restaurant inspection grade
Restaurant inspection grades like this sample from Los Angeles will be illegal in Colorado, effective Aug. 10.
Hickenlooper expressed support for more state funding for restaurant inspections, new education and training standards, the focus on highest risk establishments, correction of food safety hazards, and prevention. He also said the bill’s call for simplified licensing categories eases the regulatory burden for both restaurants and local public health agencies. However, Hickenlooper said he is is “cautious of limited local flexibility for counties,” a reference to the new law’s language calling for a “uniform system” of reporting restaurant inspection results. The new law prohibits counties that conduct restaurant inspections from reporting results to the public “with a letter grade, number or symbol grading system, or a similar oversimplified method of quantifying results.” The law requires the Department of Public Health and Environment, working with stakeholders, to establish a uniform system to communicate inspection results with consumers. If that is not accomplished, a second round of fee increases will be put on hold. The Colorado Restaurant Association opposes the use of letter grades, which are used in some areas of Colorado. Some county governments also complained to the governor about administrative flexibility of the bill. Hickenlooper wants the General Assembly to return to the task next year to seek a “balance” between the need for statewide uniformity with the need counties have to run their own programs. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)