Grading system for Hawaii restaurants delayed

Grading system for Hawaii restaurants delayed

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new system for grading all restaurants in the state was projected to be in place by now, but bureaucratic delays have slowed the process.

Restaurants work fast but sometimes the government does not especially when changing the rules is involved.

Most everybody dines out at some point but not everyone knows if the place where they're eating is clean. The State Department of Health is trying to fix that. They want to start a green, yellow and red placard system indicating if the restaurant has passed inspections.

The hope was to have it up and running several months ago but it still hasn't even gone to the public comment phase.

"It's not really any clear reason why it's being held up. It's just it's going through the process and typically that's how long it takes. Everybody is kind of overloaded with work. Our AG, we have one Attorney General that is doing a lot of the environmental stuff so it's not just one person working with our rules so it takes a lot of effort with other people and agencies so it is taking a little awhile," said Peter Oshiro, State Department of Health Environmental Health Program Manager.

While important it isn't an emergency and rule making takes a lot of time especially because the State plans to raise the annual permit fee for restaurants from $46 to $200. The additional money will help pay for additional food inspectors.

Fortunately the Department has already gone from nine food inspectors to 17 and hopes to be at 25 by the end of the year. The extra help means they'll be able to check a restaurant multiple times a year as opposed to once every two and a half years.

The Department of Health is also phasing out the rows of file cabinets. Now all the reports are scored on tablets that go into the database. Eventually the public will be able to look up inspection reports online. That's about a year away as well.

As for the placard system the food sanitation branch is chomping at the bit to get it going.

"I was hoping it would be done by the end of last year but again it's taking a little while for us to get this off so hopefully by the end of summer, maybe fall we can start looking at public hearings," said Oshiro.

After the public hearing the state will have to respond to any comments or concerns. The Governor will also have to approve the final draft. The placards likely won't be in windows until next year.

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