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Ventura Grand Jury Suggests Restaurant Rating System


VENTURA — The Ventura County Grand Jury recommended Wednesday that the county adopt a system allowing customers to learn how clean local eateries are before stopping in for a bite.

In its year-end report, the panel, whose role is chiefly advisory, suggested that the county's health officials devise an easily read rating system that would let consumers know how the restaurant fared in recent health inspections.

Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties all post A, B and C ratings in restaurant windows.

Dan Del Campo, mayor pro tem of Thousand Oaks, is a longtime supporter of a ratings system. His passion for ratings began after getting phone calls from residents who became ill after eating out.

"I did some investigation and got the number of restaurant closings from the health department," he said. "It had names you wouldn't expect, popular places in Thousand Oaks."

But Terry Gilday, acting director of the Ventura County Department of Environmental Health, has problems with a rating system, saying it doesn't actually say much about the restaurant.

People know A, B and C from school but the way they are used to rate restaurants may differ, Gilday said.

Grand jury foreman Marvin Reeber said the panel was looking at a rating system like the one used in Los Angeles County.

Currently, the environmental health department lists all restaurant closures on its Web site and is working on a system that would allow it to list all the details of why an establishment was closed.

Gilday said a grading system would necessitate hiring more staff as restaurants with low grades ask for repeated inspections to get better ratings.

"It's expensive and doesn't do much for food safety," he said.

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