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How clean is your favorite restaurant? Yelp’s hygiene scores will dish the dirt

Sure, the ambiance, the food, and the service can all make or break the quality of a restaurant, but does any of that mean anything if it’s unclean? Sanitation experts certainly don’t think so, and now, to help you ensure that your delicious dinner stays in your stomach, Yelp is providing hygiene scores for dining establishments in New York, California, Texas, Illinois, and Washington, D.C. In the coming months, the feature will be rolled out to more locations, and ultimately, the online review platform hopes that this hygiene scores will be made available at 750,000 restaurants in large cities throughout the country.

The feature makes it much easier for potential customers to quickly discover how clean a restaurant really is. While health inspection reports are, in fact, public information, not all restaurants are so quick to display them. And even if they are, you often have to go to the dining locale’s storefront in order to see whether they’ve received an A, B, or C grade. But now, all you have to do is check Yelp.

“The idea here is to take this information living on clunky dot-gov websites and put it inside Yelp where you’re probably already trying figure out where to go eat, and see it in the context of that decision,” Luther Lowe, the company’s senior vice president of public policy, told CNNMoney about the new feature.

To facilitate the rollout, Yelp worked alongside municipal governments to build an open data standard known as the Local Inspector Value-Entry Specification (LIVES). This handy tool lets cities publish hygiene inspection reports directly, which makes the information easier to access. “The idea behind it is to spur local governments to standardize data to put it in a format that’s digestible for consumers,” Lowe said.

Still, this is a rather tedious process, and because cities aren’t required to participate, not all of them do. Consequently, Yelp supplements its data with information from HDScores, a startup that aggregates and distributes this health code data from both public and private sources.

Yelp has been displaying these scores for restaurants in its native San Francisco for the last five years, but is now bringing the feature to establishments across the country. And just maybe, that’ll help you avoid a bad case of food poisoning the next time you eat out.

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