New York City's restaurant grading system, initiated by the Dept. of Health 19 months ago, has provoked anger amongst the city's restaurateurs. They have likened the teams to INTERPOL, and accuse them of lacking sensitivity.
Mayor Bloomberg has defended NYC's Health Department's grading system , initiated by his administration, by saying . "The proof is in the pudding—and more than ever, the pudding is being prepared according to the highest food safety standards." (Gothamist) The Mayor also pointed out that 88 percent of New Yorker's use the grading system when selecting where to dine.
However, The New York Times reported his words have not appeased the New York State Restaurant Association which complains that inspections can be "inconsistent and unfair and at times adversarial.”
Inspectors are employed to check conditions in the city's restaurants and award points on a grading system. Violations earn points, thus the lower a restaurant's score the better. Violations also lead to fines. Restaurant owners were surveyed anonymously, with a 68 percent response rate. Dozens of them turned up at City Hall to testify about the city's grading system and the fines, which they accuse of being "a revenue generator for the city at the expense of restaurant owners."
Restaurateurs complained that food-safety inspections feel "like a criminal raid and not an inspection", and that “there is a lack of sensitivity." Lawyer Andreas Kotsoudakis accused some inspectors of abusing their power, "issuing punitive violations for minor infractions." He cited an example of a restaurant incurring a fine “for napkins that were half an inch shorter than the fork and the knife" rather than simply health issues.
One veteran restaurant owner likened the inspection teams to INTERPOL, saying . "When they come into my restaurant, there's fear in the restaurant..There's fear, and they want to generate that…These people come into our premises as enemies, not as friends, not correcting us…they want to catch you, and that makes money for the city."
According to figures cited by Gothamist, NYC Health Department generated an additional $10 million in fines and closed down 1,504 restaurants.