December 20, 2013 By Eryn Brown, McClatchy News Service
The next time Los Angeles diners consult Yelp for restaurant reviews, they won't only get an idea what neighbors thought of an establishment's ambiance, service or decor -- they'll also see if county inspectors thought it was a safe place to eat.
Officials from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said Thursday that they were now posting health grades -- the familiar A, B, C marks that indicate the cleanliness and safety of restaurants -- on the popular review site.
The department's Environmental Health Division has been assigning grades to restaurants since 1997. In 2008, after 10 years in operation, county officials reported that the program had been a success, with more establishments earning "A's" even as guidelines became more strict. The county suggested at the time that the program also had an effect on the number of hospitalizations due to food-borne illness, which dropped 13% between 1993 and 2000.
On Yelp, the scores appear as the first item listed in the summary fields beneath a restaurant's address and contact information. Clicking on a letter score leads to a summary of inspection reports (such as Hugo's Tacos in Studio City, which received an A from inspectors during a routine check on Nov. 12). Restaurants that score below a C -- fewer than 70 -- will have their numerical score posted.
Grades for food trucks are not yet available on Yelp, though the county has plans to add them.
Patrons have been able to access restaurant health grades via the Public Health website for some time, officials said Thursday. But making the A-B-C scores available on Yelp should help the word get out more broadly, Public Health Director Dr. Jonathan Fielding said in a statement. "Publishing inspection scores online in conjunction with consumer-written reviews of restaurants is the logical next step in providing the public with immediate and easily accessible information to help make informed restaurant choices," he said.
Yelp works with local food inspectors to upload health scores to its site. In Los Angeles, new grades will be updated as they become available, said Angelo Bellomo, who directs the Department of Public Health's Environmental Health Division.
(c) 2013 the Los Angeles Times