Why a Restaurant Food Safety Grade of C is Worrisome

What does it mean to have a Food Safety C grade?

In school, a C grade means average. A normal distribution curve has 68% of all grades as a C.

Normal-distribution-curvesource: HowMed.net

Unfortunately for the public, there is grade shifting in food safety inspections. In our analysis of millions of inspections, we find some municipalities and/or states/provinces will have less than 1% C graded restaurants with some as high as 24% C graded restaurants. The bulk are in the single digits.

The C grade doesn’t mean average, it is far below average. To get a C grade, the restaurant may have more than four critical food borne illness violations or perhaps more than a dozen non-critical good retail practice violations.

Because there is such variability in the range of C graded restaurants, and to even the playing field to achieve grading fairness for restaurants across municipal lines, we created a normalized grading system. That patented process is based upon a curve, with the goal of keeping the number of C, D, F graded restaurants in the single digits.

DINGRA pie chart

This graph shows DiningGrades 36-month aggregate grade using USA data.

The history of grades is just as important as the average grade.

Getting a Food Safety C grade or below on one occasion may not represent the usual condition of food safety practiced, but multiple grades based on multiple inspections with a mathematical average of a C suggests high risk without motivation or tools to improve. Our users can see the restaurant three-year food safety past history under the restaurant profile on our website.

DiningGrades.com can also help struggling restaurants improve their food safety grade. We want all motivated restaurants to achieve excellence and offer educational tools to that end. Contact us at Office@DiningGrades.com.



Author: Dr. Harlan Stueven, MD

Harlan Stueven M.D. is a Board-Certified Emergency physician with sub-specialization in Environmental Toxicology and Board Certification in Medical Toxicology. Starting his career in the USAF, he served as a Flight Surgeon and Environmental Health Consultant Physician where one of his duties was monitoring food safety. In his nearly 40-year practice, he treated a range of medical, surgical and poisoning emergencies. He has been a Medical Director and/or Chairman of several hospital-based Emergency Medicine Departments, served as the President of Emergency and Environmental Medicine consulting group, a physician group Chief Financial Officer and sat on many national, state and local committees. Dr. Stueven founded Dining Grades and the Dining Safety Alliance to improve food safety by increasing awareness of food borne illness and the formation of partnerships within the food industry. He is a consultant to the Wisconsin Retail Food Establishment Grading Work Group; a Co-investigator in a CDC funded “Evaluation of Health Department Restaurant Inspection Programs” project. He has presented at several National, State and Regional conferences on restaurant grading and food safety. He is an accomplished leader, medical researcher, a champion of process improvement, author, and national and international speaker.

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