below 70 require immediate remediation by the restaurant owner, which may include suspension of the owner’s public health permit and closing of the restaurant.
The transparency system requires restaurants to post the letter grade arising from the most recent inspection on the front window. A searchable Web-based system includes inspection grades, numeric scores on which the grades were based, and a listing of specific violations found on the last inspection. Restaurants receive two or three unannounced inspections and one reinspection, upon request, per year. Thus, although the posting of grade cards entails relatively small costs, the system relies on a large number of inspections (about seventy-five thousand in 2003) and therefore means a sizable enforcement budget for the DHS.
The introduction of the new transparency system led to fairly rapid and significant changes in the overall grade distribution in county restaurants (as noted, the grading system existed before the disclosure requirement). When the program began, 58 percent of restaurants received an A grade, a number that grew to 83 percent by 2003. The incentives to improve are significant. Jin and Leslie report that after grade posting became required, restaurants receiving an A grade experienced revenue increases of 5.7 percent (other factors held constant); B grade restaurants had increases of 0.7 percent; and those with a C grade had declines in revenue of 1 percent. The introduction of grades also improved hygiene at franchised units in chain restaurants, whereas franchised units tended to have lower hygiene than company-owned restaurants.
More important, studies found significant decreases in food-borne-illness hospitalizations, ranging from 13 percent (Simon et al., 2005) to 20 percent (Jin and Leslie, 2003).
The system is not without its problems. There is some evidence that inspectors have become more lenient over time. There is no systemic evidence of corruption in grading, although the economic incentives for it are significant, given the high stakes involved in res tau rant grades. Some critics of the system have argued that it is incompatible with the standard food preparation practices of certain ethnic groups who therefore face an unfair disadvantage from the grading system.
Several other cities in the United States have similar restaurant hygiene disclosure systems. While eight states had introduced legislation requiring posting grade cards, as of 2005 only Tennessee and North Carolina had statewide systems.
Disclosing Rollover Propensities to Improve Auto Safety
In 2000, a series of widely reported traffic fatalities associated with rollovers of popular sport utility vehicles (SUVs) drew national attention. These incidents, which also involved sudden tread separation in certain lines of Firestone tires, highlighted a more general public safety problem. SUVs were more likely than sedans or station wagons to roll over, and some SUVs were much more likely to roll over than others.
Improving public understanding of the propensity of vehicles to roll over was important because rollover accidents remained the most deadly auto accidents in the United States and were increasing. Rollovers accounted for less than 4 percent of all auto accidents but accounted for about a third of driver and passenger fatalities (61 percent of SUV fatalities and 22 percent of passenger-car fatalities). From 1991 to 2001 the number of drivers and passengers killed in all automobile accidents in the United States increased by 4 percent, while deaths in rollover accidents increased by 10 percent. Light-truck (including SUV) rollover fatalities increased 43 percent, whereas passenger-car rollover fatalities declined 15 percent.