necn Investigates: Grading Boston's Restaurants

Taking a closer look at Mayor Marty Walsh's proposed food grading system

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has introduced a new food grading system that may soon affect every restaurant in the city of Boston.

All Boston restaurants and food trucks will be handed a letter grade of A, B or C if the mayor’s proposal goes through.

Boston is packed full of nearly 3,200 restaurants and food trucks. Under the proposal, each one will be required to post its city-issued letter grade. It will fall on 18 inspectors to investigate all of the city's restaurants and food trucks.

Similar food safety ratings are already in place in New York, Los Angeles, and most recently in Newton, Massachusetts.

The ordinance calls for the letter grade to be posted “…immediately after receipt, unobstructed, at eye-level, facing outward on an exterior-facing wall or window within five feet of the main restaurant…”

If the restaurant doesn't post its rating immediately, it will be fined $300 per day.

necn Investigates looked at the top violations for 2016 so far this year.


Just this year, of the thousands of violations we found, nearly 2,000 had to do with food protection. Nearly 800 times, inspectors found insects, rodents and animals. And there were thousands of violations for not storing food at the proper temperatures.

Here are just a few examples of some of the violations:

Violation type# of violations
Insects, rodents, animals775
Cross contamination367
Inadequate cooling methods351
Food utensil storage350
Clean cloths/hair restraint328
Clean equipment and utensil storage281
Adequate handwashing214
Spoilage/unsafe food98
Good hygienic practices92
Soiled linen storage80

The violations are especially concerning when you consider the Centers for Disease Control estimates one in six Americans get sick from food.

Here's a quick breakdown of the grading system, from the mayor's office:

In accordance to the Federal Food Code, points will be based on the following three categories of violations: foodborne critical, non-foodborne critical and non-critical. The ordinance will allow each category of violations to be assigned numerical points, which are deducted from a point score of 100 during the inspection to include the following:

• Foodborne critical violations = 10 points

• Non-foodborne critical violations = 7 points

• Non-critical violations = 2 points

Inspections will issue the establishment's letter grade to correspond to the score as follows:

• 94-100 = A

• 81-93 = B

• Less than 81 = C

Restaurants and food trucks with a low grade, below an A, will have 30 days to clean it up and be re-inspected.

If approved, the A, B, C letter grades will go online in the next month. Actual posting of the grades in restaurant windows will start a year later.

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