When letter grades started being posted outside New York City restaurants in 2010, my eyes were opened to the possibility that things aren't always what they seem. Gross health code violations can be hiding behind the closed service doors of even the fanciest restaurants and bars. While we don't have letter grading in the Hudson Valley, we do have reports from the New York State Health Department.

What is a Critical Health Violation?

Health code violations are separated into two categories: general and critical. Critical violations are considered "public health hazards", and include infractions that can lead to sickness from improperly-prepared food. Meal items not being cooked to required temperatures, pre-cooked food not being properly reheated, and even failing to notify diners about potential risks associated with eating items like raw fish or rare meat could all lead to violations.  So which Hudson Valley county has the most critical health violations in food service?

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Restaurants in Ulster County, NY

First, let's start with some good news. Ulster County, where your faithful author was raised, has the least amount of critical violations of any county in the Hudson Valley, with seven. Even more impressive, Ulster is only beat out by one other county (screw you, Cayuga, NY) for the least amount of critical infractions in the entire state. While I can claim bragging rights for the county where I was raised, the county where I currently live is a different story.

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Health Code Violations in Orange County, NY

Orange County, NY, where I currently live in the town of Newburgh, has the most critical health violations of any county in the Mid-Hudson Valley. While there are still 19 counties with more violation in New York state, a whopping 108 critical violations land Orange County in hot water. Apparently, it wasn't hot enough. The county also comes in sixth in the state (and worst in the Hudson Valley) with uncorrected critical violations at six. Even though that isn't great news, I do applaud the restaurants that addressed the other 102 infractions.

Where Other Counties Fall

If you want the whole rundown, here's how it shakes out. After Orange County, NY, Dutchess County was next with 96 critical violations. Columbia County has 33, and Putnam County boasts 26. If you really want to be technical, Greene County actually leads the list with 209, but my focus is in the Mid-to-Lower-Hudson region.

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