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City leaders speak against ending food sanitation grading system

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A Milwaukee Health Department plan is apparently not as easy as A-B-C.

A state board is preparing to gut the brand new food sanitation grading system. That would mean no more letter grades in restaurant windows.

The letter grade 'A' signifies that a restaurant does not have any notable health code violation they need to figure out - while a 'C' grade could result in a temporary closure.

But a proposal before the Board of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer protection (DATCAP) could soon prohibit this letter grading system. 10th District Milwaukee Alderman Michael Murphy says it is an attack on transparency for customers.

"I think special interests are outweighing the public's interest. This is a clear example of where we have proof showing that health is being improved in our city," Murphy said.

The Wisconsin Restaurant Association expressed its support for the proposal before DATCAP in a statement that read in part: “A single letter grade or score does not inform consumers about the nature of a risk at the restaurant and it can alter perceptions for the wrong reason.”

“Grades and scores are not an accurate predictor of the likelihood of a foodborne illness outbreak in a restaurant," the statement continues.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says DATCAP's proposal is not constructive.

"Because if [the letter grading system] is too simplistic, well then we should change it. But that's not what this rule does. This rule takes away the ability of local government to do anything in this area whatsoever," Barrett said.

Brian Ward, owner of Ward's House of Prime, says he supports the letter grade system.

"Sometimes people are afraid of the health department instead of looking at them as a partner in working with you and making sure you and your staff understand what the right way to do things are," Ward said.

DATCAP will vote on prohibition of restaurant letter grades this coming Thursday in Madison.

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