Customers wonder which restaurants are safe as state works on online results

It’s day three and there’s already some confusion and fear over the state’s new food safety rating program.

Some customers don’t know what the program is and which restaurants are safe.

The program began Monday and is meant to give customers peace of mind about being protected from foodborne illnesses and other health hazards.

A new tool may help with misinformation and confusion, but it’s not yet ready. The idea is to have all that information about restaurant inspections online so customers can easily search for the information. But that could be months away.

Emerson Ribao, owner of Cafe Julia, said since KHON2’s story aired Tuesday about his restaurant receiving a yellow card from the state, he’s been flooded with calls.

“There’s a lot of calls starting from the distributors, purveyors, regular customers, friends, asking if we’re still open,” he said. “People started calling me, that they misinterpret whatever they see or whatever they hear.”

The callers expressed confusion over the new, color-coded cards. The restaurant received one of the first yellow “conditional pass” cards for 13 violations.

One of the violations corrected meant covering all containers, including items that customers use.

Ribao says he made all the necessary corrections and Wednesday morning, a health inspector returned and replaced the yellow card with a green one.

Inspectors continue to follow the new food safety rating. Eleven restaurants were inspected Tuesday, seven of which received yellow cards.

One customer KHON2 spoke with admitted she didn’t know what the yellow and green cards meant.

“Would you eat at a restaurant that has a yellow card?” KHON2 asked.

“If I already had eaten there before and had a good experience, maybe yes, but if I was trying to decide on a new place, probably not,” she replied.

Peter Oshiro with the State Department of Health says customers shouldn’t be concerned if a restaurant receives a yellow card. “What that card states is it is a conditional pass,” he said.

The state wants to stress that yellow means the restaurant is safe, but has violations that could lead to foodborne illnesses.

The state is planning to put all inspection results online to help inform people. In fact, the Health Department already has all the results online, but they’re only available to employees.

“We may have to move to a different vendor because we’re not satisfied with the performance of the field of the use of the system,” Oshiro said.

Oshiro says it could cost up to a quarter of a million dollars to set up a new system that the public could access.

“We didn’t want to open a public portal where there might be some glitches and inspectional information getting through,” he said.

The state hopes to post the inspection reports online beginning next year. Until then, the only way you can find out the results of an inspection is to call the restaurant or go to the restaurant to see which card is posted.

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