Hawaii restaurants to face new food safety ratings

The people who serve food for a living will soon be served themselves with either a green, yellow or red card.

That is the meat of the state health department’s soon-to-be imposed rating system, all meant to help customers decide where it is safe to eat there.

There are more than 6,000 food establishments on Oahu, some 10,000 across the state, and that includes high-priced restaurants, fast food places, and food trucks as well.

Inspectors will fan out across the state to teach food servers how to abide by the new rules and earn a passing grade.

The state will start with a public relations campaign before they card anyone. Those cards can appear in less than three months.

“That’s with 26 people out in the field. How are you going to be able to do this? You’ve got 10,000 establishments.” KHON2 said.

“That’s statewide. On Oahu, there’s only 6,100 [food establishments]. So if the 25 people do five a day, that comes out to 25 a week. So that’s 100 establishments each month,” said Peter Oshiro of the Hawaii Department of Health.

The training and follow-up inspections will also occur at all 256 school cafeterias. The Department of Health says that should not be a problem since the new rules are consistent with what is already being followed by the food servers at the schools.

The state says that should avoid a repeat of what happened last December, when dozens of children became sick after eating lunch at Waipahu Elementary School.

The problem comes when customers question what a yellow card actually means.

“I can only imagine the interaction between the servers and the guests. The questions they’re going to come up with and how do you answer that?” said Goran Streng, Tango Contemporary Cafe owner and chef.

Yellow means there’s some work to do before you get to green. And red? You’re closed until you pass inspection.

The cards should be up in a few months in the store window and online.

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