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Changes in Pima County restaurant health inspection process

Pima County collaborates with restaurants to update its health inspection process
Posted at 10:41 PM, Aug 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-27 09:26:35-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Danny Nikitas, Pima County's head of health inspectors explained that before, a restaurant might have failed an inspection for a minor health violation.

With the new system now there's a bit of grey in what was a down the middle, black and white process.

"What we had before was a rating system that basically meant that all violation carry equal weight as far as how we score and how it affects that facilities rating," Nikitas said.

"Really, the only thing that's changed is how we score what we observe."

Under the old system you get the same violation for not having chlorine tests strips, used for testing dishwater, as you would for serving under cooked chicken.

If a facility doesn't have that test strip that should not be a failed inspection and it won't be going forward, but it was in the past," Nikitas said.

The Executive Chef at "El Charro Cafe," Gary Hickie, calls that good news for restaurants.

His reason: there's no longer such a cut and dry rating system which, in the past, might have driven away customers for a reason that wasn't self-explanatory.

"Instead of 'needs improvement,' what does that mean to John Q. Public? "Needs improvement," 'I'm not going to go there," Hickie said.

Under the new system, you'll find a rating between "good" and "needs improvement" called "satisfactory."

"I think 'satisfactory' is kind of the way of the future," Hickie said.

That's not to say your favorite restaurant won't shoot for the highest rating.

"Nobody wants to be less than excellent, we strive for excellence in all of our facets of business and food safety in the top echelon of that."

Since the change Pima County's Health Department has handed out 20 "satisfactory" ratings around the county.

Health inspectors plan to hold a public meeting to explain the new system on September 17th and 18th, from 3 P.M. to 4 P.M.

They'll be held at the Abrams Public Health Center.