Restaurant placard program a few months away from starting - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Restaurant placard program a few months away from starting

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

If the state were a waiter it wouldn't exactly be working on a 20 percent tip because of the slow service. But in this case the state feels it's better to get the order right than fast.

A new food safety program is still a few months away from being implemented even though it's been in the works for two and a half years.

The Atkinson Grill is on board with the new restaurant placard system.

"I think it should be taken seriously and I think this placard system is going to be good for Hawaii," said Keone Gaspar, Blazin Steaks Atkinson Grill. "I think it's overdue. I'm glad they're finally implementing it. I support it."

So is the Hawaii Food Industry Association and the 200 companies it represents.

"Our members feel very well informed about it. We've had an opportunity to comment and we feel strongly that this is the right thing to do," said Lauren Zirbel, Hawaii Food Industry Association Executive Director.

Virtually all the testimony is supportive of the plan to put green, yellow and red placards in the front of restaurants to let customers know how it did on the last inspection. So why is it taking so long to implement?

"This is a very drastic change and for us putting a placard immediately at the end of inspection will have immediate effects on the business we're looking to regulate," said Peter Oshiro, State Department of Health Sanitation Branch Chief. "This is not an emergency rule. This is a long term change that we're trying to put into place and this is for the long haul so it's something we need to get right the first time we do it."

The public comment period will end this Friday. Then it's on to the Governor's plate for final approval.

"Did you think it was going to take three years when you first started this?" we asked.

"No not at all I'm an eternal optimist and I expect government to move a lot faster but this is a major rule change," responded Oshiro.

It will still be about three months after the Governor's approval to implement because state inspectors will visit all 10,000 restaurants in the state to give them a tutorial.

"That's one thing that is really great about Hawaii is that the state agencies make a big effort to go out and inform the local businesses about how they are being affected and how to prepare ahead of time so they don't get caught off guard," said Zirbel.

Restaurants that handle raw meats will be inspected three times a year. Places that use frozen food like fast food establishments twice a year and other specialty shops like ice cream parlors just once a year. But customers will get a little more piece of mind every day.

The new placard program should be implemented by spring about three years after the first drafts began.

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