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New Restaurant Evaluation System causes some confusion

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Ellis County Press

We're all familiar with the old, 100-point scoring system - just like back in school. When we go to a restaurant and look for their Health Department rating, we expect to see a score of 80 or 90 - or more. But the State of Texas has recently adopted new FDA-sponsored food rules, according to Janice Coates, Registered Sanitarian and Program Manager for the area's Retail Foods Division of the State Health Department. 

'The new scoring system is a demerit system,' said Coates. 'The items are weighted, and those items that cause food-borne illness, such as temperature and time lapse, are most heavily weighted.'

Under the new system, a score of 15, or 20 or 30 would be common; a score of 20 would be comparable to a score of 80 under the old system. 'It's confusing,' Coates continued, 'People walk into a restaurant and see a score of 20, and they wonder why the place is still open.'

Additionally, though the State of Texas has adopted the new FDA food rules, cities with inspection programs of their own are free to maintain more stringent guidelines. The State rules are a minimum, according to Coates. Consequently, individual cities may be applying different standards, and may still be scoring under the 100-point system.

'I did a seminar for food handlers a few months ago,' said Pete Morales, Environmental Health Inspector for the City of Waxahachie. 'I told them, it's first impressions, and if you score under 70, I'll shut you down today.' Morales said some of the students were surprised that the city would close the establishment with no notice. But Morales said, 'They found out, others are even tougher than I am. People need a safe, clean place to eat.'

Both Morales and Coates indicated that their departments are committed to protecting the public. 'September is National Food Safety Month,' said Coates. 'And Texas Food Safety Month.' State inspectors are available to speak to groups or establishments as time and resources allow, and further information is available to the public at www.texasfoodsafety.org, or by calling (817) 272-7602. 

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