New York introduces sanitary grades for restaurants

The 24,000 New York City restaurants began showing their grades Wednesday - A, B, or C - under a new system of ranking sanitary conditions by the city's health department.

The new system is aimed at increasing public awareness of health in food preparation and encouraging better practices in food establishments.

"Whether it's a neighborhood deli or a pricey dinner house, any food establishment can prepare food safely," said city health commissioner Thomas Farley, who awarded the first "A" to the tiny Sparks Deli in Queens. "Sparks has set an example."

The restaurants will be required to display their health grades publicly and a city website will also users to determine an individual restaurant grade.

"Most restaurants maintain good conditions, but lapses in food safety cause a lot of preventable illness in New York City," said Farley.

"Food-borne illness prompts thousands of hospital visits each year, and it costs many New Yorkers valuable days of work or school," he said.

"By putting information about inspection results on public display, we give diners the information they want while also encouraging restaurants to improve their food preparation practices."

Under the system, restaurants with A grades will be inspected annually, while those receiving lower marks will get more frequent visits.

Restaurants with code violations will get a chance to improve their scores on a re-inspection. Restaurants may contest violations, during which time they can post a "Grading Pending" sign.

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