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I’ve lived in New York for over a year now and I still have no idea what the sanitation grades mean. All I know is that I expect any restaurant I eat at to be an A+ student of the New York Sanitation Department.

A Sanitation Grade

That being said, I decided to stop living in ignorance and find out what these signs are trying to tell me.

When did it start?

July 2010. I shudder to think how it was before then…

How does it work?

The Health Department pops in unexpectedly about once a year to inspect around 24,000 restaurants in the city. Restaurants are scored with numbers and then given a letter grade.

A: 0 – 13 points
B: 14 – 27 points
C: 28+ points

What does “Grade Pending” Mean?

Grade Pending means 14+ points

This means the restaurant received less than an A on their inspection. The restaurant can hang a Grade Pending sign until it is re-inspected within 1 month. After the re-inspection, the restaurant receives a letter grade. If the grade is still below an A, the restaurant can file an appeal. An appeal could take up to half a year to resolve and in that time the restaurant has the right to keep the Grade Pending sign.


What are the numbers based off of?

Public Health Hazard: failing to keep food at the right temperature, etc.
Minimum of 7 points.

Critical Violation: serving raw food such as a salad without properly washing it first, etc.
Minimum of 5 points

General Violation: not properly sanitizing cooking utensils, etc.
Minimum of 2 points

Now if you want to continue freaking yourself out, look at The New York Times ratings map and see if your favorite restaurant made the cut. And for more information check out the NYC DOH website.