To Grade Or Not To Grade, That’s Milwaukee’s Question

Milwaukee is weighing whether to become Wisconsin’s first city to institute a restaurant grading system. If the proposed ordinance—which directs the city’s health department to set up a grading system—passes, Milwaukee would join several other major cities and states that have embraced posting inspection grades despite strong opposition from the restaurant industry.

Much is up for debate, such as whether to use ABC grades or color-coded categories. The city’s health department has been evaluating best practices for grading and for translating the complexities of a foodservice establishment inspection into something that is clearly understandable to operators and residents. No sure set of best practices has been found, according to Susan Quam, executive v.p.-Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

The WRA, which represents about 350 restaurants in Milwaukee and thousands of restaurants across the state, opposes any grading or scoring initiatives in Milwaukee, Quam said, because it misleads consumers about the risk of illness at restaurants.

“We know the consumer would like to have the ability to have easy access to information and feel that a place they’re eating at is doing the right thing,” Quam told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “But (grades) can give a false impression, and they don’t predict the likeliness of someone getting a food-borne illness.”

Milwaukee would be the only city in Wisconsin to post grades. A recent national survey showed a majority of health officials using grading systems said they believed the threat of bad publicity results in cleaner restaurants.

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