HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - New color-coded signs started going up at Oahu restaurants on Monday. Health inspectors visited a dozen food establishments. Half of them earned a green "pass" placard. The rest received a yellow "conditional pass" sign.
One of the restaurants that received a yellow card was Cafe Julia. Among the violations was a problem involving refrigeration temperatures. The owner plans to fix the issues as soon as possible.
"I think positive that all the things that was commented about it is very doable. It's just little things that you overlook sometimes," said owner Emerson Ribao.
The yellow placard means two or more major violations and requires a follow-up inspection. An inspector will return one business day after being notified that the corrections have been made. A green card signals no more than one critical problem that is fixed during the inspection. A red closed sign indicates an imminent health hazard.
"Looks like the staffing level is where we need it to be so all it is, is getting industry used to this new system of how we inspect and I think it will actually improve quite a bit over the long run," said Peter Oshiro, manager of the Environmental Health Program.
Scratch Kitchen and Bake Shop earned one of the first green placards.
"I'm pretty OCD as far as cleaning goes, so I stay on top of things when it comes to cleanliness," said owner Brian Chan.
But other popular spots such as Nico's, Uncle's Fish Market and Grill, Grand Cafe and Bakery, GRYLT in Kahala Mall, and La Tour Cafe on Nimitz Highway received yellow signs.
"I bet we'll be surprised when these signs start going out as to how some of the restaurants maybe we thought would have been really clean are not going to be," said Kailua resident Kathy Fay.
The owner of Nico's told Hawaii News Now that the violations involved the cooking line temperature and sanitizer wash. A manager at La Tour said the problems centered around labeling at two prep stations. Both businesses plan to have an inspector return the next day to confirm the corrections and issue a green card.
Hawaii's Health Department investigates 100 to 200 foodborne illness cases a year.
"I'm not surprised. This is why we started this program is because what we were seeing in statistics prior was 70 to 80% of our facilities, high-risk facilities, were getting multiple major violations," said Oshiro.
The number of inspectors on Oahu has nearly tripled. The state hopes to put up placards in all 6,000 food establishments on the island in the next four to six months. Signs will start going up on the neighbor islands in late August.