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County to start posting color-coded health inspection placards at local eateries

Restaurants, grocers among businesses affected by new public-notice rules

San Ramon Valley businesses that sell food, including restaurants and grocers, will have color-coded signs visibly posted starting next month -- under new county-wide regulations -- to show whether any health code violations have been found during recent health inspections.

"This is an important step to help the public make informed decisions when dining or shopping in our county," said Candace Andersen, chair of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors. "Placards make it easy for anyone to know a business's food safety record, just by looking in the window."

The board approved the new program March 15, and the county will start phasing in the placards April 15, officials said.

The signage will indicate whether inspectors found health code violations at the food businesses, such as food measured at unsafe temperatures, unclean or unsanitized kitchen equipment, or workers handling food with unwashed hands or while they were sick.

Sacramento and several Bay Area counties, including Alameda, already implement the green, yellow and red placard system at food businesses.

The green placard means zero or one violation, yellow is two or more and red placards are used if businesses have been shut down due to an imminent health hazard, officials said.

"Our primary goal is to reduce food-borne illness. Other cities and counties that use placarding programs have seen a decline," environmental health director Dr. Marilyn Underwood said. "Making inspection results highly visible appears to have an impact on making businesses that sell food operate more safely."

Businesses will be receiving the placards at their next inspection after April 15. Some may have multiple signs displayed, depending on the type of food business they operate.

Environmental Health, which is part of the Contra Costa Health Services Department, will "offer training for those that repeatedly struggle to obtain green placards," according to county officials.

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