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New food safety system proposal fails in Detroit

Stanford Smith

Detroit will not adopt a new food safety grading system for restaurants.

City Council voted against the proposed ordinance 6-to-3 Tuesday. Councilmember Scott Benson drafted the law which would have had restaurants post color-coded signage that follows traffic light rules – a green sign meaning a restaurant is in compliance. And red indicating that it was shut down by the health department.

The visible food grades would have made eating in Detroit safer, Benson said.

“This ordinance does one thing: ensures transparency by the fact you’re placing a placard showing your results," he said. "But it does also come with education of the public and as well as an incentive to handle food safely and not reopen when you know you’re serving rat-infested food.”

Benson was joined by Councilmembers Mary Waters and Angela Whitfield Calloway in supporting the food grade ordinance.

Several restaurant owners and the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association voiced their opposition to the plan. Councilmember Latisha Johnson said the move would be bad for small businesses.

"There’s no clear plan to engage with business owners and this added layer of enforcement can potentially delay or postponed an already confusing licensing process," she said.

Detroit City Councilmember Scott Benson, who advocated for the ordinance, estimatesd 90% of businesses would be able to show they passed their inspections.

Eli Newman is a Reporter/Producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. Newman is an award-winning radio journalist and was named the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Broadcast Rising Star in 2017. His work has appeared on NPR, Marketplace and the Detroit Free Press among others. Newman joined WDET as a newsroom intern in 2014 and is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where he first worked in radio at the student-run station WCBN.