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Milwaukee may eliminate restaurant grading system

November 17, 2018

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Less than one year after the city of Milwaukee implemented a restaurant grading system, the program will likely be eliminated because of an update made to the state’s food rules to comply with federal guidelines.

The Wisconsin Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s recommendation on Thursday included new rules prohibiting restaurant grading systems, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

The governor and state Legislature will consider the board’s recommendation for approval. If approved, the rules could go into effect this spring, according to a board spokeswoman.

Milwaukee’s grading system is voluntary this year and was expected to become mandatory in January. About 40 percent of the city’s 3,000 restaurants are participating, according to Milwaukee Ald. Michael Murphy.

“This is the first time in many years we have seen a reduction in critical food violations,” Murphy said. “Consumers like to know when they go into a restaurant what the safety standards are, and it helps drive the operators to do a better job, because they all would like to have an A.”

Murphy said he believes the Thursday decision was in response to pressure from the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.

“At a minimum, (the grading system) should be given some time to move forward for a year or two and not be killed just because one special interest is more interested in money than public health,” Murphy said.

Kristine Hillmer, the president and chief executive officer of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, said the grading system is too simplistic.

“It’s really not a true indicative of what the food safety culture is,” Hillmer said. “We feel the more information a consumer can get the better because we want them to make informed choices.”

The WRA supports the use of a pass/fail system where restaurants that may be a risk to the public are closed until violations are fixed.

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Information from: Wisconsin Public Radio, http://www.wpr.org

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