CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Health officials are halfway through a pilot program that color codes restaurant report cards. However, some fixes have to be made before the program gets rolled out next year.
WSAZ.com went in search of violations and excellent rated restaurants to see what food inspectors are scrutinizing. What we found is a system of checks to keep you safe.
"I'd like to think of myself as an educator -- not an enforcer," sanitarian David Winowich said. "I'm here to help them learn, how to do it properly and serve safe food."
Health officials say surprisingly there have not been many complaints among restaurant owners and managers regarding the new system.
"We have more excellent ratings than any other rating, so it tells me maybe there is more focus on food safety," Kanawha-Charleston Health Department Director Dr. Rahul Gupta said. "Not to say we're making it easy for them because we're not. But it does mean that more of them are taking notice and want to be rated as green, and they're making an effort."
Currently, 140 restaurants are going through the trial run. A committee plans to meet to discuss a loophole that may make a restaurant look violation free when it originally was not.
The new rating system starts with green for excellent, yellow for good, orange for fair and red for closed.
At Casa Garcia in South Charleston, the restaurant was rated excellent -- given a code green last time around.
While most everything was up to code, three minor violations were discovered. Normally, this would make for a code yellow, or good, rating. However, everything was fixed on the spot -- giving them that excellent green rating.
The same would go for an eatery with no violation, and that's where the loophole lies -- considering it unfair to those who have a clean report card even before inspection.
"They started off with three non-critical," Winowich said. "They corrected all of them, so their final score is an excellent rating -- they have zero violations."
While health officials say they're still reviewing the pilot program, restaurant workers seem to like the new system.
"The sign is green and most, a lot of people, come back knowing it's clean," Casa Garcia manager Ramon Solis said. "We try to do the best we can, and that way I can tell the cooks to fix things so we can continue to be an excellent rating."
The health reports will be posted less than 5 feet from the door of any establishment. The color code is supposed to make it easier to know how a restaurant is performing.
Officials say they're working to soon upload the restaurant ratings online. That means before you even go inside, you can checkon online or soon on your smartphone with a special app a restaurant's rating.
The health department says it will meet to tweak the new system. It's still set to roll out across the county by Feb. 1.
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