The County of Sacramento's traffic-signal method of alerting diners about the health status of restaurants is being acknowledged with one of the nation's more prestigious honors in consumerism.
Officials of the county's Environmental Management Department announced this morning that the agency is receiving the 2008 Samuel J. Crumbine Consumer Protection Award for Excellence in Food Protection.
The agency is being singled out specifically for a program it began last year involving green, yellow and red placards at the entrance of restaurants to notify guests how the businesses measured up during their latest public-health inspection. A green sign indicates no major health issues were found, a yellow sign indicates violations were uncovered and corrections are pending, and a red sign indicates that violations were so severe the restaurant is closed. Last summer, public-health authorities reported that about 88 percent of the county's food establishments, which include grocery stores and school cafeterias as well as restaurants, were getting green cards; just one percent were being hit with a red card.
The award's 12 judges, all public-health practitioners, were impressed with how local officials brought the local food industry aboard in introducing the program, food-safety classes they started to help restaurant workers avoid health issues, and the publication of inspection guidelines in several languages, among other provisions of the effort.
"The County of Sacramento has demonstrated leadership, innovation and a commitment to food safety that transcends the boundaries of their county. It is a guiding light for local food-safety programs throughout the nation," said Gary Erbeck of the County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health, chair of the award jury.
Named for one of the country's more celebrated public-health sanitarians, the Crumbine award has been handed out over the past 53 years. It will be presented local officials at the annual Educational Conference of the National Environmental Health Association in June in Tucson.