The stickers that will soon be posted will feature emojis. (King County/Courtesy Image)

Island restaurants will soon display food safety ratings

As early as next week, Vashon’s restaurants may begin to display window stickers that convey their food safety rating as determined by county inspectors.

Those inspectors — from Seattle – King County Public Health — evaluate restaurants and other businesses that serve food one to three times per year. If a business is open, it has met or exceeded the minimum food safety standards, county officials say. However, the window stickers, with four designations, provide additional information that members of the public have repeatedly said they have wanted.

“The over arching concept is that the public wanted information that showed how well a business performed beyond meeting the minimum standards,” said Food Program Manager Becky Elias. “They wanted a rating system that conveyed a trend.”

Elias said this new system does just that. It is based on the findings from the previous four inspections and provides on-the-spot information about establishments, with more information available online.

The rating focuses on what the program calls “red critical violations,” Elias said. Restaurants displaying “Excellent” stickers have had no or few of those violations at recent inspections and are some of the best performing on all of Vashon. Restaurants with a “Good” sticker have had some of the violations, while “Okay” stickers indicate many of the violations. Businesses with the “Needs to Improve” category have been closed by public health inspectors within the last year or required multiple return inspections to fix food safety practices.

Officials rolled out this effort earlier this year, beginning in the northwest portion of the county. Next week, they will move to Phase 2 of the project, which includes establishments on Vashon and in south Seattle, Renton and Bellevue. While islanders may spot the stickers in some in business windows soon, it could take some time for all food-related businesses to receive them, as the stickers are provided at regularly scheduled inspections.

So far, Elias said the feedback from restaurant owners has been positive and is a way for those with a high commitment to food safety to show that commitment.

She also encouraged diners to get in touch with the public health department if they believe proper practices are not being followed.

“They are the eyes and ears,” she said. “If they ever have concerns … we will follow with an inspector and check in.”