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Hawaii's new restaurant placards to alert diners to health violations

Eating out? Hawaii has a placard system that lets diners know of any potential issues.

Health inspectors in Hawaii are taking new steps to ensure visitors don’t get sick from the food they eat.

The state’s Department of Health has begun posting new color-coded placards to let customers know of potential risks before they ever look at a menu.

The first placards will be found on Oahu, where inspectors monitor 6,000 businesses that serve food. The program will eventually extend to all 10,000 food establishments statewide.

A green card is reserved for eateries at which inspectors uncover no more than one serious violation of health standards. Businesses with two or more violations must post a yellow card. When an inspector finds enough violations to force immediate closure, a red card will be posted. 

It’s not just restaurants that will have to display the placards. The law, enacted earlier this year, also applies to convenience stores, food trucks, markets and even push carts.

“The new food-safety rules let consumers know which food establishments have violations and may cause some to think twice about eating at locations where concerns are not being addressed,” Gary Gill, deputy director of environmental health, said in a news release.

The new system, based on one used in Sacramento County, has the support of the Hawaii Restaurant Assn., which represents 3,500 businesses.

“We believe this new law is good for Hawaii residents and visitors to our islands, and will help to demonstrate our members’ commitment to high standards in all aspects of food handling,” Roger Morey, the association’s executive director, said in a statement.

“A green placard represents a seal of approval from the Department of Health, which will further support the business of our members.”

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