A hygiene grading system became available Friday, the food ministry said, offering benefits to those that earn high scores.
Restaurants can apply to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety to voluntarily get appraised for their sanitation conditions. For those that pass the inspection, the ministry will award hygiene grade certificates of three different levels -- good, very good and excellent. Establishments that receive the certificates will get a plaque showing the grade and become eligible for financial assistance for renovations. They will also be exempted for two years from inspections by state authorities.
The ministry said it decided to adopt the system as more people are eating out, raising public awareness about the conditions of restaurant kitchens. The proportion of people eating at restaurants rose to 33.4 percent in 2015 from 25 percent in 2012. There were 1,085 cases of food poisoning reported between 2014 and 2016, of which 671, or 61.8 percent, were linked to restaurants.
"Each regional government has its own restaurant sanitation inspection and certification systems, about 105 in all," a ministry official said. "We hope to bring them under a unified system in phases." (Yonhap)