It\u2019s been a year since the Naugatuck Valley Health District (NVHD) stared using a food rating system that aims to give a clearer picture of sanitary measures and rating scores in local restaurants. \u201cI think it\u2019s been a positive,\u201d said David Rogers, the NVHD\u2019s assistant director for environmental health. Under the new system, a sanitarian inspects the restaurant and posts a certificate near the entrance showing a rating that could be excellent, good, fair or poor. The certificate also shows the rating of the previous inspection. Under the old system, restaurants received a numerical score, such as an 80 or 90, which could be difficult to interpret. \u201cWe found there was great variation,\u201d Rogers said. \u201cSome restaurants with a score in the mid-80s got good ratings, and others with a 90 received a fair rating. \u201cWe\u2019re trying to de-emphasize the numerical,\u201d he said. \u201cIt doesn\u2019t give the public an accurate description of how [the restaurants] are doing.\u201d Posting a rating certificate is a benefit to the dining public, according to health district officials. \u201cThey assume a place is safe,\u201d said Karen Spargo, NVHD health director. Rating must be displayed Technically, restaurant owners can have a license suspended if they don\u2019t display the document. If restaurant customers don\u2019t see the rating certificate posted, they should ask the restaurant staff about it or call the NVHD \u2014 which serves Shelton and five other towns \u2014 at 203-881-3255. People may select a town to view the local restaurants organized by rating at nvhd.org. Correcting violations If a restaurant receives a poor rating, \u201cthey have to send us a request for reinspection and send us a description of how they corrected the violation,\u201d Rogers said. \u201cWe look for them to make the corrections and sustain them, so at the next regular inspection, they will have improved,\u201d Spargo said. \u201cIf there is a serious violation or if it continues over time, sometimes we will have to close a restaurant.\u201d The district sees itself as a positive force in working with restaurants on compliance issues. \u201cWe will consult and educate,\u201d Spargo said. Who is rated by the system The rating system applies to restaurants in Class 3 and 4, which are establishments that serve hot foods. They\u2019re rated three or four times a year, based on the presence or absence of risk factor violators determined by the state of Connecticut\u2019s public health code, Rogers said. The risk factors that the state determines are most closely associated with food-borne illnesses are listed on new inspection forms. Risk factors include, but aren\u2019t limited to, maintaining product temperature, protecting food during storage, food handling, and restricting personnel with infectious diseases. Re-inspections If items don\u2019t comply, they must be corrected by a specific re-inspection date. In addition to helping customers understand inspection scores, the new rating system aims to help restaurant owners or managers. \u201cNow they\u2019re forced to read the report and understand how to make corrections,\u201d Rogers said. \u201cSanitarians like it because restaurants are paying attention and trying to address what they\u2019re doing in correcting the violations.\u201d Assessing the impact About five or six of the state\u2019s 70 health districts have instituted similar rating systems, according to Rogers. New York City also has a similar system, and that city \u201chas seen improvement,\u201d he said. \u201cWe need another year to assess the impact,\u201d Spargo said, and the NVHD plans to conduct a study on changes brought about by the new system. The NVHD rating system was approved by the health district\u2019s board of directors, discussed at a public hearing, and became part of the organization\u2019s health code. The Naugatuck Valley Health District provides public health services and programs to Shelton, Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Derby, Naugatuck and Seymour.