You can vote on how new food safety ratings will look

By: Amy Clancy

Updated:

Restaurant windows will soon warn diners away from less-than-safe food.

The new effort by Public Health of Seattle/King County is meant to help people avoid foodborne illnesses such as E. coli and salmonella.

Sarah Schacht of Seattle knows just how painful E. coli can be.  She has been struck with the illness twice. The first time was during the fatal Jack in the Box outbreak in 1993, when she was 13-years old. 

“It felt like my insides were being ripped open, day after day, for weeks,” Schacht told KIRO 7.  “I was in and out of the ER.”

Schacht got sick again in 2013 after eating at a now-closed mom-and-pop restaurant in Seattle. 

Because of her experiences, Schacht has spent years encouraging King County to adopt a clear-cut rating system that consumers can see the results of before they even walk into a restaurant.

Beginning in January, Public Health will provide all restaurants in King County signs that reflect how safe the establishment’s food is, based on health inspections.  The signs must be displayed near the front entry, and will feature one of six proposed designs, which all feature emoji facial expressions. 

A happy face indicates excellent inspection results.  A sad face means the restaurant needs improvement.

If a restaurant fails inspection, it will be closed down.  A sign will be issued once changes are made and inspections are passed.

You still have a chance to weigh in on the design for the rating system by taking King County's survey. The survey ends Thursday night. Click here to take it.

Becky Elias, Manager of the Food and Facilities Section of the Environmental Health Division for Public Health Seattle believes emojis are easier to understand than a letter grade or star system, implemented in other cities.

“Regardless of how young or how old someone is, how well they read, what language they speak, they understand facial expressions” she said.

On Thursday, Elias updated King County’s Board of Health on the program’s progress.  She said, more than 3500 people have submitted votes online for which of the six emoji design they prefer, and a winner will be announced soon.

Meanwhile, the Seattle lawyer who has represented hundreds of foodborne illness victims, including Sarah Schacht, believes the signs are good for consumers.

“The more information the public has the better” attorney Bill Marler told KIRO 7. “If you’ve got a frowny face in your restaurant, you want to turn it into a happy face.  So if you’re serious about being a good restaurant, you’re going to make that change.”

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