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New York's latest health inspection results show Asian restaurants have performed 13.4% worse since 2017, compared with the period before that year.   © Kyodo

New York's Asian restaurants fare poorly in health inspections

Eateries risk scaring away diners as their grades slip

LONDON -- New York City is brimming with Asian eateries that vary by reputation and cleanliness. They range from numerous Michelin-starred Japanese restaurants in Manhattan to cheap takeout joints in the Bronx. But on average, Asian restaurants in the Big Apple are poorer performers than other types of establishments in health inspections, an analysis by the Nikkei Asian Review has found.  

More alarming, perhaps, is a widening gap between inspection scores for Asian and non-Asian restaurants. 

The latest available health inspection results show Asian restaurants have performed 13.4% worse since 2017, compared with data released by the New York City Health Department for the period before that year. 

The Health Department says it checks around 24,000 restaurants a year for compliance with municipal and state food safety regulations. Since 2010, it has required restaurants to post their grades. Each eatery is scored based on food handling, food temperature, personal hygiene, facility and equipment maintenance and vermin control. These scores are converted into letter grades. The lower the better: Scores from 0 and 13 points earn an A, 14 to 27 points a B and 28 or more a C.   

Chinese restaurants -- the second most common type in the data set after American ones -- slipped only marginally, from an average score of 19.8 to 21.7 points. But other Asian cuisines, especially those served at relatively small numbers of eateries, accounted for the biggest leaps backward. 

For the 33 Filipino restaurants inspected since 2017, the average result was 28.4 points, a 23.5% deterioration from 22.97 points. This carried Philippine cuisine into the worst possible grade grouping -- C. 

The handful of Vietnamese, Cambodian and Malaysian restaurants -- 87 were inspected for 2017-2018 -- suffered a 24% decline in their average score after 22 establishments were added to the list. Bangladeshi restaurants scored 16% worse after six more were inspected.

As health patrols reach more Asian restaurants, the average scores tend to worsen.

The grades are a big deal in a city of small apartments with tiny kitchens and residents with a penchant for dining out. The worsening scores could mean less business for Asian restaurants, especially in light of concerns about food poisoning.

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene estimates that more than 6,000 New Yorkers are hospitalized and 20,000 visit emergency rooms each year due to food-borne illnesses.

The issue is not confined to U.S. shores. A study by The Independent, a British newspaper, found that hygiene ratings among Chinese restaurants and takeaways in the U.K. were also lower than those for other kinds of cuisine. Nearly half of the surveyed Indian establishments received poor scores.   

Datawatch is a series jointly produced by the Nikkei Asian Review and FT Confidential Research.

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