What’s the Deal with Food Safety Grades?

Food Safety Grades

Whether you have noticed or not, restaurant patrons are increasingly being greeted by colorful faces. Signs indicating food safety and safety levels are marked with three different expressions. It is easy to understand that the big smiley face symbolizes the top grade; the slight smile means medium, and the blank face shows just so-so. But what do the grades mean, where do they get the signs and is it applicable throughout the country?

On January 6, 2012, the China Food and Drug Administration released guidelines covering the management of food safety inspection and quantitative ratings for food service providers. Nationwide, any food service establishment holding a license, including restaurants, snack shops, drink stores and cafeterias, should be evaluated on various aspects by the local food and drug administration according to related food safety and food service supervision regulations. Each one of the nine examined categories gives out ten points with 58 items in total. The categories assess the validity of permits, whether employees are properly supervised (i.e. do they have proper certifications), environmental sanitation, equipment, food storage, preparation, sanitation, food additives and transport. The laughing face is granted to those with an average score of above 9.0; The small smile goes to the ones between 8.9 and 7.5; and the blank face will pass to the ones between 7.4 and 6.0. Lower scores are unranked.

There are two kinds of grades: dynamic and annual. The dynamic grade shows how the restaurant performed in the last inspection; the annual grade signifies how the restaurant has been doing during the year’s multiple inspections. In Guangdong, only dynamic grades are conducted and displayed showing only the latest results.

So far, not all food service units in Dongguan are involved in the rating system. “We only started from the second half of last year, some restaurants haven’t been checked yet,” said an official surnamed Zhang with the Nancheng Branch of Dongguan Food and Drug Administration. He also pointed out that all the newly opened restaurants must be verified in the fourth month after opening, and any restaurants unsatisfied with the results can reapply for the inspection.