NYC Food Service Restaurants slam the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH)with $150 million lawsuit alleging that violations issued during health department inspections were excessive and unjust. Causing a loss of business for restaurants while raising revenue for the City.
Owners of 40 Restaurants filed a complaint in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan claiming that because health inspectors are improperly trained, they apply the code differently, which has resulted in “arbitrary, capricious and malicious enforcement of the health code”, a violation of due process under the 14 Amendment. ( Board of Health Public Review Committee v. New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, 100847/2013)
In an emailed statement Jaslee Carayol, a spokeswoman for the city’s Law Department stated “This rambling, scattershot attack on the city’s regulation of food service establishments lacks merit and should be quickly rejected by the courts,”
According to the New York Post “Restaurants are under siege” stating that approximately two-thirds of the fines paid by New York restaurants in 2012 and 2013 had little or nothing to do with food quality. That violations for dim light bulbs, cracked tiles and dirty aprons make up a large part of violations, which are not food related, thus imposing these violations has nothing to do with food safety and everything to do with revenue. (Hate to take sides but a dim kitchen with cracked tiles and food service employees in dirty aprons, may not literally have anything to do with food, however these types of conditions are not present in establishments where food safety practices are a priority)
The Health Department stands by every violation insisting that violations are written to protect NYC restaurants as well as the patrons that frequent them. In further support of the violations, the Health Department states that the Letter Grade System has forced NYC restaurants to clean up their act.
According to Dan Orlando, who reported for the New York Business Journal, “the city collected about $30 million in health-code fines between July 2012 and March 2013, which is actually about $8 million less than it did from the same period a year earlier, implying greater compliance with rules”.
Since 2010 more than 80% of restaurants are now earning A grades, closures are down 12% from last year and fines have decreased by 20% – as well as a decline in salmonella rates.
Are health inspections Arbitrary? YES
Will properly training inspectors cause a decline in violations? Not sure…
Should some violations that are not as critical to food safety as others be reviewed …Probably
Has implementing the Letter Grade System generated revenue for the city? YES, but so does imposing grandiose fines for parking tickets …at least the revenue generated from the Letter Grade System has spread awareness, forced many establishments to become safer, and has given all of us consumers access to information that allows us to make informed decisions when choosing where to dine.