Blog Archives

Second restaurant worker confirmed in Hep A outbreak

An employee of a Taco Bell on Oahu has been confirmed as the second foodservice worker included among the 52 victims of a Hepatitis A outbreak that Hawaii’s health officials expect to grow.

Map of Oahu

As of July 15, employees of two restaurants in central Oahu (rough area outlined in green) were confirmed as being among the victims of a Hepatitis A outbreak.

The Taco Bell restaurant in Waipio at 94-790 Ukee St. where the infected employee works is less than a mile and a half from the Baskin-Robbins ice cream store at the Waikele Outlet Center. An employee at the Baskin-Robbins was announced last week as the first confirmed foodservice worker case in the outbreak that is believed to have begun June 16.

“It is important to note that neither the Waikele Baskin-Robbins nor the Waipio Taco Bell have been identified as the source of infection for this outbreak,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park in a news release.

“These are merely places where the victims were employed. The likelihood that patrons of these food establishments will become infected is very low, but to prevent possible additional cases, we are notifying the public so they may seek advice and help from their healthcare providers.

“Additional food service establishments may be affected as the number of cases continues to grow. Individuals, including food service employees, exhibiting symptoms of Hepatitis A should stay home and contact their healthcare provider.”

The health department is advising people who consumed any food or beverages at the Taco Bell recently that they may have been exposed to Hepatitis A and should therefore ask their doctors if they should consider receiving a shot of vaccine or immune globulin. The specific dates in question for Taco Bell customers are June 16, 17, 20, 21, 24, 25, 28, 29, 30, and July 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 11.

“Unvaccinated individuals should contact their healthcare providers about the possibility of receiving hepatitis A vaccine or immune globulin, which may provide some protection against the disease if administered within the first two weeks after exposure,” according to the health department, which issued a similar notice last week after the Baskin-Robbins employee was confirmed as part of the outbreak.

Possible exposure dates for customers of the Baskin-Robbins store are June 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 25, 27, 30, and July 1 and 3.

Updated numbers on confirmed cases are scheduled to be posted Wednesday, following weekly on Wednesdays until further notice, a spokeswoman at the state’s health department said Monday morning.

When the health department announced the outbreak on July 1, there were 12 cases, with six having required hospitalization. As of last week’s update, there were 52 confirmed cases. All confirmed cases are on Oahu and involve adults. Sixteen have had symptoms so severe that they required hospitalization.

“Symptoms of Hepatitis A infection include fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, dark urine, diarrhea and yellow skin and eyes, and typically last several weeks to as long as two months,” according to the health department.

“Treatment of Hepatitis A is supportive, and most people will recover without complications. While vaccination provides the best protection, frequent hand washing with soap and warm water after using the bathroom, changing a diaper and before preparing food can help prevent the spread of Hepatitis A. Appropriately cooking foods can also help prevent infection.”

For a list of vaccinating pharmacies, call the Aloha United Way information and referral line at 2-1-1 or visit http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/files/2013/07/IMM_Adult_Resource_List.pdf.

Additional information about Hepatitis A can be found on the Hawaii Department of Health website.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)

Food Safety News

MA Restaurant Linked to Salmonella Outbreak Closed ‘Until Further Notice’

A number of cases of foodborne illness have reportedly been linked to food served by the Churrascaria Aveirense restaurant in New Bedford, MA, and local health officials asked the owners to close the restaurant until all employees have tested negative and the facility meets all food-safety requirements.

News reports stated that the restaurant, which serves Portuguese food and other dishes, closed Friday and there were handwritten notes on the door citing “a family emergency” and that the facility would be “closed until further notice.”

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health recently informed the local board of health in New Bedford that several persons have tested positive for Salmonella bacteria.

Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days, and most of those infected will recover without treatment.

Anyone who is experiencing these symptoms is advised to contact their primary health care provider.

The Massachusetts state health department has issued an informational fact sheet on Salmonella and can be reached at (508) 991-6199 by anyone who wants more information about the situation.

Food Safety News

19 Recent Salmonella Cases Linked to MA Restaurant

State and local health department officials are investigating 19 Salmonella cases linked to a restaurant in Holyoke, MA.

Brian Fitzgerald, Holyoke’s health director, told a local TV station that officials were trying to figure out why people were apparently sickened after eating at the Delaney House in Holyoke between Nov. 11 and 15, 2014.

Investigative reports from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health indicate that 19 confirmed Salmonella cases and additional potential cases were traced back to 10 different events held at the Delaney House.

The restaurant has not been shut down, although the state asked local health officials to order the management to comply with several alleged food code violations.

Five food handlers and one non-food handling employee at the restaurant also tested positive for Salmonella. Some of the infected food handlers reportedly worked at events outside of the Delaney House, including the Log Cabin, a take-out restaurant, and various catered events.

Peter Rosskothen, a co-owner of the restaurant, told local media that the management has cooperated with the investigation and that the problem appeared to be limited to the Nov. 11-15 period.

“We feel awful about this, but I know for a fact that no one has been related to us with this issue since Nov. 15th. I feel really comfortable that whatever came to us left us even before the investigation started,” Rosskothen said. He added that no new cases had been reported since the investigation began.

Symptoms of Salmonella infection include diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramps. It is usually transmitted to humans by eating foods contaminated with animal feces or by eating raw or undercooked meat, poultry, eggs or egg products.

Food Safety News

Letter From the Editor: Restaurant Inspections

My first job was behind a soda fountain in a small town general store with a lunch counter and four booths. Ever since, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I should someday open my own restaurant. Once, when I came close to doing it, a friend whom I’d talked out of buying a boat returned the favor by turning me away from the restaurant business.

A big job for food safety is the inspection of the nation’s 616,008 restaurants, where we drop 47 cents out of every dollar we spend on food. Inspecting all those restaurants and monitoring the food safety activities of their 13.5-million workers is a job that’s even too big for the federal government.

Restaurant inspections are a task we’ve assigned to approximately 2,800 local health departments, including city, county, metropolitan, district and tribal agencies. These local health departments license and inspect restaurants and provide food safety training for food service professionals.

State and local taxes and fees pay for restaurant inspections, and those funding sources have flatlined in recent years, leaving local health departments trying to do more with less. Many local programs call for doing two unannounced inspections at each restaurant per year.

However, the Association of Food and Drug Officials reports that local health departments conducted more than three-quarters of a million inspections (760,749) in 2009. The NPD Group, which tracks the restaurant market, says there were 584,653 restaurants operating in 2009. That means about 1.3 inspections per restaurant, not two. And local health department budget cuts had only begun in 2009. It’s likely there are restaurants in the U.S. that now go more than a year before being inspected.

And we depend on these local health departments for more than inspections. The National Association of County and City Health Officials, representing the 2,800 local departments, points out a few:

  • Trainings and technical assistance. Local health departments are responsible for training and certifying food safety managers at grocery stores, restaurants, and mobile food unit operations.
  • Frontline surveillance. Local health departments are often the first to receive and respond to reports of potential foodborne illness outbreaks and food safety-related consumer complaints at the local level.
  • Outbreak response and recalls. Local health departments respond to outbreaks, participate in recall efforts, and communicate with the public about outbreaks and recalls.
  • Public education. Local health departments utilize varied marketing and outreach techniques to educate the public on the importance of food safety practices.

Against this background, restaurant inspections were in the news this past week when Weld County, CO, adopted an A-to-F letter grading system, only to see it called into question by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

As Food Safety News readers know, the A-to-F letter grading was listed among former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s accomplishments when he left office at the end of 2013. It’s been depicted by some as both being popular with New Yorkers and reducing foodborne illness in the Big Apple. I’m not sure if either of those claims stand up on their own, or if they were just part of the Bloomberg propaganda machine.

For better or worse, Bloomberg’s much heralded posting of letter grades has been able the only restaurant inspection reform during this fiscally tough period when most local health departments have just struggled to keep doing the basics.

Colorado, for example, has used the same inspection regime developed in the early 1990s.  State and local officials are starting a process that could lead to the first changes in a generation in the basis inspection system.   They want a better way of communicating with the public based not on solo incidents while weighing the prevalence of specific violations.

Fiscal recovery at the state and local level will likely cause many other restaurant inspection programs to review what they are doing for the first time in years.  This might be a good time for a larger top-to-bottom review of the effectiveness of different restaurant inspection systems.

We were dubious when claims were made that Bloomberg’s letter grade postings were responsible for declines in foodborne illnesses in New York City.   But, maybe it’s true.   We’d like to see respected organizations like the Association of Food and Drug Officials and the National Association of County and City Health Officials get together and analyze restaurant inspection systems across the country and come up with recommendations on the most effective.

While we think this is a good time for the professionals to come up more effective restaurant inspections, there is another problem.   If, as the data suggests, there are only 1.3 inspections annually for each restaurant, we have a problem.  Many local departments inspect all their restaurants two or three times a year.   That means there are restaurants out waiting more than a year to get inspected.

We need effective restaurant inspections and we need more of them.  It’s time to recognize years of fiscal cutbacks at the state and local levels have taken their toll and do something about it.

 

 

Food Safety News

Letter From the Editor: Restaurant Inspections

My first job was behind a soda fountain in a small town general store with a lunch counter and four booths. Ever since, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I should someday open my own restaurant. Once, when I came close to doing it, a friend whom I’d talked out of buying a boat returned the favor by turning me away from the restaurant business.

A big job for food safety is the inspection of the nation’s 616,008 restaurants, where we drop 47 cents out of every dollar we spend on food. Inspecting all those restaurants and monitoring the food safety activities of their 13.5-million workers is a job that’s even too big for the federal government.

Restaurant inspections are a task we’ve assigned to approximately 2,800 local health departments, including city, county, metropolitan, district and tribal agencies. These local health departments license and inspect restaurants and provide food safety training for food service professionals.

State and local taxes and fees pay for restaurant inspections, and those funding sources have flatlined in recent years, leaving local health departments trying to do more with less. Many local programs call for doing two unannounced inspections at each restaurant per year.

However, the Association of Food and Drug Officials reports that local health departments conducted more than three-quarters of a million inspections (760,749) in 2009. The NPD Group, which tracks the restaurant market, says there were 584,653 restaurants operating in 2009. That means about 1.3 inspections per restaurant, not two. And local health department budget cuts had only begun in 2009. It’s likely there are restaurants in the U.S. that now go more than a year before being inspected.

And we depend on these local health departments for more than inspections. The National Association of County and City Health Officials, representing the 2,800 local departments, points out a few:

  • Trainings and technical assistance. Local health departments are responsible for training and certifying food safety managers at grocery stores, restaurants, and mobile food unit operations.
  • Frontline surveillance. Local health departments are often the first to receive and respond to reports of potential foodborne illness outbreaks and food safety-related consumer complaints at the local level.
  • Outbreak response and recalls. Local health departments respond to outbreaks, participate in recall efforts, and communicate with the public about outbreaks and recalls.
  • Public education. Local health departments utilize varied marketing and outreach techniques to educate the public on the importance of food safety practices.

Against this background, restaurant inspections were in the news this past week when Weld County, CO, adopted an A-to-F letter grading system, only to see it called into question by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

As Food Safety News readers know, the A-to-F letter grading was listed among former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s accomplishments when he left office at the end of 2013. It’s been depicted by some as both being popular with New Yorkers and reducing foodborne illness in the Big Apple. I’m not sure if either of those claims stand up on their own, or if they were just part of the Bloomberg propaganda machine.

For better or worse, Bloomberg’s much heralded posting of letter grades has been able the only restaurant inspection reform during this fiscally tough period when most local health departments have just struggled to keep doing the basics.

Colorado, for example, has used the same inspection regime developed in the early 1990s.  State and local officials are starting a process that could lead to the first changes in a generation in the basis inspection system.   They want a better way of communicating with the public based not on solo incidents while weighing the prevalence of specific violations.

Fiscal recovery at the state and local level will likely cause many other restaurant inspection programs to review what they are doing for the first time in years.  This might be a good time for a larger top-to-bottom review of the effectiveness of different restaurant inspection systems.

We were dubious when claims were made that Bloomberg’s letter grade postings were responsible for declines in foodborne illnesses in New York City.   But, maybe it’s true.   We’d like to see respected organizations like the Association of Food and Drug Officials and the National Association of County and City Health Officials get together and analyze restaurant inspection systems across the country and come up with recommendations on the most effective.

While we think this is a good time for the professionals to come up more effective restaurant inspections, there is another problem.   If, as the data suggests, there are only 1.3 inspections annually for each restaurant, we have a problem.  Many local departments inspect all their restaurants two or three times a year.   That means there are restaurants out waiting more than a year to get inspected.

We need effective restaurant inspections and we need more of them.  It’s time to recognize years of fiscal cutbacks at the state and local levels have taken their toll and do something about it.

 

 

Food Safety News

Letter From the Editor: Restaurant Inspections

My first job was behind a soda fountain in a small town general store with a lunch counter and four booths. Ever since, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I should someday open my own restaurant. Once, when I came close to doing it, a friend whom I’d talked out of buying a boat returned the favor by turning me away from the restaurant business.

A big job for food safety is the inspection of the nation’s 616,008 restaurants, where we drop 47 cents out of every dollar we spend on food. Inspecting all those restaurants and monitoring the food safety activities of their 13.5-million workers is a job that’s even too big for the federal government.

Restaurant inspections are a task we’ve assigned to approximately 2,800 local health departments, including city, county, metropolitan, district and tribal agencies. These local health departments license and inspect restaurants and provide food safety training for food service professionals.

State and local taxes and fees pay for restaurant inspections, and those funding sources have flatlined in recent years, leaving local health departments trying to do more with less. Many local programs call for doing two unannounced inspections at each restaurant per year.

However, the Association of Food and Drug Officials reports that local health departments conducted more than three-quarters of a million inspections (760,749) in 2009. The NPD Group, which tracks the restaurant market, says there were 584,653 restaurants operating in 2009. That means about 1.3 inspections per restaurant, not two. And local health department budget cuts had only begun in 2009. It’s likely there are restaurants in the U.S. that now go more than a year before being inspected.

And we depend on these local health departments for more than inspections. The National Association of County and City Health Officials, representing the 2,800 local departments, points out a few:

  • Trainings and technical assistance. Local health departments are responsible for training and certifying food safety managers at grocery stores, restaurants, and mobile food unit operations.
  • Frontline surveillance. Local health departments are often the first to receive and respond to reports of potential foodborne illness outbreaks and food safety-related consumer complaints at the local level.
  • Outbreak response and recalls. Local health departments respond to outbreaks, participate in recall efforts, and communicate with the public about outbreaks and recalls.
  • Public education. Local health departments utilize varied marketing and outreach techniques to educate the public on the importance of food safety practices.

Against this background, restaurant inspections were in the news this past week when Weld County, CO, adopted an A-to-F letter grading system, only to see it called into question by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

As Food Safety News readers know, the A-to-F letter grading was listed among former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s accomplishments when he left office at the end of 2013. It’s been depicted by some as both being popular with New Yorkers and reducing foodborne illness in the Big Apple. I’m not sure if either of those claims stand up on their own, or if they were just part of the Bloomberg propaganda machine.

For better or worse, Bloomberg’s much heralded posting of letter grades has been able the only restaurant inspection reform during this fiscally tough period when most local health departments have just struggled to keep doing the basics.

Colorado, for example, has used the same inspection regime developed in the early 1990s.  State and local officials are starting a process that could lead to the first changes in a generation in the basis inspection system.   They want a better way of communicating with the public based not on solo incidents while weighing the prevalence of specific violations.

Fiscal recovery at the state and local level will likely cause many other restaurant inspection programs to review what they are doing for the first time in years.  This might be a good time for a larger top-to-bottom review of the effectiveness of different restaurant inspection systems.

We were dubious when claims were made that Bloomberg’s letter grade postings were responsible for declines in foodborne illnesses in New York City.   But, maybe it’s true.   We’d like to see respected organizations like the Association of Food and Drug Officials and the National Association of County and City Health Officials get together and analyze restaurant inspection systems across the country and come up with recommendations on the most effective.

While we think this is a good time for the professionals to come up more effective restaurant inspections, there is another problem.   If, as the data suggests, there are only 1.3 inspections annually for each restaurant, we have a problem.  Many local departments inspect all their restaurants two or three times a year.   That means there are restaurants out waiting more than a year to get inspected.

We need effective restaurant inspections and we need more of them.  It’s time to recognize years of fiscal cutbacks at the state and local levels have taken their toll and do something about it.

 

 

Food Safety News

Letter From the Editor: Restaurant Inspections

My first job was behind a soda fountain in a small town general store with a lunch counter and four booths. Ever since, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I should someday open my own restaurant. Once, when I came close to doing it, a friend whom I’d talked out of buying a boat returned the favor by turning me away from the restaurant business.

A big job for food safety is the inspection of the nation’s 616,008 restaurants, where we drop 47 cents out of every dollar we spend on food. Inspecting all those restaurants and monitoring the food safety activities of their 13.5-million workers is a job that’s even too big for the federal government.

Restaurant inspections are a task we’ve assigned to approximately 2,800 local health departments, including city, county, metropolitan, district and tribal agencies. These local health departments license and inspect restaurants and provide food safety training for food service professionals.

State and local taxes and fees pay for restaurant inspections, and those funding sources have flatlined in recent years, leaving local health departments trying to do more with less. Many local programs call for doing two unannounced inspections at each restaurant per year.

However, the Association of Food and Drug Officials reports that local health departments conducted more than three-quarters of a million inspections (760,749) in 2009. The NPD Group, which tracks the restaurant market, says there were 584,653 restaurants operating in 2009. That means about 1.3 inspections per restaurant, not two. And local health department budget cuts had only begun in 2009. It’s likely there are restaurants in the U.S. that now go more than a year before being inspected.

And we depend on these local health departments for more than inspections. The National Association of County and City Health Officials, representing the 2,800 local departments, points out a few:

  • Trainings and technical assistance. Local health departments are responsible for training and certifying food safety managers at grocery stores, restaurants, and mobile food unit operations.
  • Frontline surveillance. Local health departments are often the first to receive and respond to reports of potential foodborne illness outbreaks and food safety-related consumer complaints at the local level.
  • Outbreak response and recalls. Local health departments respond to outbreaks, participate in recall efforts, and communicate with the public about outbreaks and recalls.
  • Public education. Local health departments utilize varied marketing and outreach techniques to educate the public on the importance of food safety practices.

Against this background, restaurant inspections were in the news this past week when Weld County, CO, adopted an A-to-F letter grading system, only to see it called into question by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

As Food Safety News readers know, the A-to-F letter grading was listed among former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s accomplishments when he left office at the end of 2013. It’s been depicted by some as both being popular with New Yorkers and reducing foodborne illness in the Big Apple. I’m not sure if either of those claims stand up on their own, or if they were just part of the Bloomberg propaganda machine.

For better or worse, Bloomberg’s much heralded posting of letter grades has been able the only restaurant inspection reform during this fiscally tough period when most local health departments have just struggled to keep doing the basics.

Colorado, for example, has used the same inspection regime developed in the early 1990s.  State and local officials are starting a process that could lead to the first changes in a generation in the basis inspection system.   They want a better way of communicating with the public based not on solo incidents while weighing the prevalence of specific violations.

Fiscal recovery at the state and local level will likely cause many other restaurant inspection programs to review what they are doing for the first time in years.  This might be a good time for a larger top-to-bottom review of the effectiveness of different restaurant inspection systems.

We were dubious when claims were made that Bloomberg’s letter grade postings were responsible for declines in foodborne illnesses in New York City.   But, maybe it’s true.   We’d like to see respected organizations like the Association of Food and Drug Officials and the National Association of County and City Health Officials get together and analyze restaurant inspection systems across the country and come up with recommendations on the most effective.

While we think this is a good time for the professionals to come up more effective restaurant inspections, there is another problem.   If, as the data suggests, there are only 1.3 inspections annually for each restaurant, we have a problem.  Many local departments inspect all their restaurants two or three times a year.   That means there are restaurants out waiting more than a year to get inspected.

We need effective restaurant inspections and we need more of them.  It’s time to recognize years of fiscal cutbacks at the state and local levels have taken their toll and do something about it.

 

 

Food Safety News

Letter From the Editor: Restaurant Inspections

My first job was behind a soda fountain in a small town general store with a lunch counter and four booths. Ever since, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I should someday open my own restaurant. Once, when I came close to doing it, a friend whom I’d talked out of buying a boat returned the favor by turning me away from the restaurant business.

A big job for food safety is the inspection of the nation’s 616,008 restaurants, where we drop 47 cents out of every dollar we spend on food. Inspecting all those restaurants and monitoring the food safety activities of their 13.5-million workers is a job that’s even too big for the federal government.

Restaurant inspections are a task we’ve assigned to approximately 2,800 local health departments, including city, county, metropolitan, district and tribal agencies. These local health departments license and inspect restaurants and provide food safety training for food service professionals.

State and local taxes and fees pay for restaurant inspections, and those funding sources have flatlined in recent years, leaving local health departments trying to do more with less. Many local programs call for doing two unannounced inspections at each restaurant per year.

However, the Association of Food and Drug Officials reports that local health departments conducted more than three-quarters of a million inspections (760,749) in 2009. The NPD Group, which tracks the restaurant market, says there were 584,653 restaurants operating in 2009. That means about 1.3 inspections per restaurant, not two. And local health department budget cuts had only begun in 2009. It’s likely there are restaurants in the U.S. that now go more than a year before being inspected.

And we depend on these local health departments for more than inspections. The National Association of County and City Health Officials, representing the 2,800 local departments, points out a few:

  • Trainings and technical assistance. Local health departments are responsible for training and certifying food safety managers at grocery stores, restaurants, and mobile food unit operations.
  • Frontline surveillance. Local health departments are often the first to receive and respond to reports of potential foodborne illness outbreaks and food safety-related consumer complaints at the local level.
  • Outbreak response and recalls. Local health departments respond to outbreaks, participate in recall efforts, and communicate with the public about outbreaks and recalls.
  • Public education. Local health departments utilize varied marketing and outreach techniques to educate the public on the importance of food safety practices.

Against this background, restaurant inspections were in the news this past week when Weld County, CO, adopted an A-to-F letter grading system, only to see it called into question by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

As Food Safety News readers know, the A-to-F letter grading was listed among former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s accomplishments when he left office at the end of 2013. It’s been depicted by some as both being popular with New Yorkers and reducing foodborne illness in the Big Apple. I’m not sure if either of those claims stand up on their own, or if they were just part of the Bloomberg propaganda machine.

For better or worse, Bloomberg’s much heralded posting of letter grades has been able the only restaurant inspection reform during this fiscally tough period when most local health departments have just struggled to keep doing the basics.

Colorado, for example, has used the same inspection regime developed in the early 1990s.  State and local officials are starting a process that could lead to the first changes in a generation in the basis inspection system.   They want a better way of communicating with the public based not on solo incidents while weighing the prevalence of specific violations.

Fiscal recovery at the state and local level will likely cause many other restaurant inspection programs to review what they are doing for the first time in years.  This might be a good time for a larger top-to-bottom review of the effectiveness of different restaurant inspection systems.

We were dubious when claims were made that Bloomberg’s letter grade postings were responsible for declines in foodborne illnesses in New York City.   But, maybe it’s true.   We’d like to see respected organizations like the Association of Food and Drug Officials and the National Association of County and City Health Officials get together and analyze restaurant inspection systems across the country and come up with recommendations on the most effective.

While we think this is a good time for the professionals to come up more effective restaurant inspections, there is another problem.   If, as the data suggests, there are only 1.3 inspections annually for each restaurant, we have a problem.  Many local departments inspect all their restaurants two or three times a year.   That means there are restaurants out waiting more than a year to get inspected.

We need effective restaurant inspections and we need more of them.  It’s time to recognize years of fiscal cutbacks at the state and local levels have taken their toll and do something about it.

 

 

Food Safety News

Letter From the Editor: Restaurant Inspections

My first job was behind a soda fountain in a small town general store with a lunch counter and four booths. Ever since, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I should someday open my own restaurant. Once, when I came close to doing it, a friend whom I’d talked out of buying a boat returned the favor by turning me away from the restaurant business.

A big job for food safety is the inspection of the nation’s 616,008 restaurants, where we drop 47 cents out of every dollar we spend on food. Inspecting all those restaurants and monitoring the food safety activities of their 13.5-million workers is a job that’s even too big for the federal government.

Restaurant inspections are a task we’ve assigned to approximately 2,800 local health departments, including city, county, metropolitan, district and tribal agencies. These local health departments license and inspect restaurants and provide food safety training for food service professionals.

State and local taxes and fees pay for restaurant inspections, and those funding sources have flatlined in recent years, leaving local health departments trying to do more with less. Many local programs call for doing two unannounced inspections at each restaurant per year.

However, the Association of Food and Drug Officials reports that local health departments conducted more than three-quarters of a million inspections (760,749) in 2009. The NPD Group, which tracks the restaurant market, says there were 584,653 restaurants operating in 2009. That means about 1.3 inspections per restaurant, not two. And local health department budget cuts had only begun in 2009. It’s likely there are restaurants in the U.S. that now go more than a year before being inspected.

And we depend on these local health departments for more than inspections. The National Association of County and City Health Officials, representing the 2,800 local departments, points out a few:

  • Trainings and technical assistance. Local health departments are responsible for training and certifying food safety managers at grocery stores, restaurants, and mobile food unit operations.
  • Frontline surveillance. Local health departments are often the first to receive and respond to reports of potential foodborne illness outbreaks and food safety-related consumer complaints at the local level.
  • Outbreak response and recalls. Local health departments respond to outbreaks, participate in recall efforts, and communicate with the public about outbreaks and recalls.
  • Public education. Local health departments utilize varied marketing and outreach techniques to educate the public on the importance of food safety practices.

Against this background, restaurant inspections were in the news this past week when Weld County, CO, adopted an A-to-F letter grading system, only to see it called into question by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

As Food Safety News readers know, the A-to-F letter grading was listed among former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s accomplishments when he left office at the end of 2013. It’s been depicted by some as both being popular with New Yorkers and reducing foodborne illness in the Big Apple. I’m not sure if either of those claims stand up on their own, or if they were just part of the Bloomberg propaganda machine.

For better or worse, Bloomberg’s much heralded posting of letter grades has been able the only restaurant inspection reform during this fiscally tough period when most local health departments have just struggled to keep doing the basics.

Colorado, for example, has used the same inspection regime developed in the early 1990s.  State and local officials are starting a process that could lead to the first changes in a generation in the basis inspection system.   They want a better way of communicating with the public based not on solo incidents while weighing the prevalence of specific violations.

Fiscal recovery at the state and local level will likely cause many other restaurant inspection programs to review what they are doing for the first time in years.  This might be a good time for a larger top-to-bottom review of the effectiveness of different restaurant inspection systems.

We were dubious when claims were made that Bloomberg’s letter grade postings were responsible for declines in foodborne illnesses in New York City.   But, maybe it’s true.   We’d like to see respected organizations like the Association of Food and Drug Officials and the National Association of County and City Health Officials get together and analyze restaurant inspection systems across the country and come up with recommendations on the most effective.

While we think this is a good time for the professionals to come up more effective restaurant inspections, there is another problem.   If, as the data suggests, there are only 1.3 inspections annually for each restaurant, we have a problem.  Many local departments inspect all their restaurants two or three times a year.   That means there are restaurants out waiting more than a year to get inspected.

We need effective restaurant inspections and we need more of them.  It’s time to recognize years of fiscal cutbacks at the state and local levels have taken their toll and do something about it.

 

 

Food Safety News

Letter From the Editor: Restaurant Inspections

My first job was behind a soda fountain in a small town general store with a lunch counter and four booths. Ever since, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I should someday open my own restaurant. Once, when I came close to doing it, a friend whom I’d talked out of buying a boat returned the favor by turning me away from the restaurant business.

A big job for food safety is the inspection of the nation’s 616,008 restaurants, where we drop 47 cents out of every dollar we spend on food. Inspecting all those restaurants and monitoring the food safety activities of their 13.5-million workers is a job that’s even too big for the federal government.

Restaurant inspections are a task we’ve assigned to approximately 2,800 local health departments, including city, county, metropolitan, district and tribal agencies. These local health departments license and inspect restaurants and provide food safety training for food service professionals.

State and local taxes and fees pay for restaurant inspections, and those funding sources have flatlined in recent years, leaving local health departments trying to do more with less. Many local programs call for doing two unannounced inspections at each restaurant per year.

However, the Association of Food and Drug Officials reports that local health departments conducted more than three-quarters of a million inspections (760,749) in 2009. The NPD Group, which tracks the restaurant market, says there were 584,653 restaurants operating in 2009. That means about 1.3 inspections per restaurant, not two. And local health department budget cuts had only begun in 2009. It’s likely there are restaurants in the U.S. that now go more than a year before being inspected.

And we depend on these local health departments for more than inspections. The National Association of County and City Health Officials, representing the 2,800 local departments, points out a few:

  • Trainings and technical assistance. Local health departments are responsible for training and certifying food safety managers at grocery stores, restaurants, and mobile food unit operations.
  • Frontline surveillance. Local health departments are often the first to receive and respond to reports of potential foodborne illness outbreaks and food safety-related consumer complaints at the local level.
  • Outbreak response and recalls. Local health departments respond to outbreaks, participate in recall efforts, and communicate with the public about outbreaks and recalls.
  • Public education. Local health departments utilize varied marketing and outreach techniques to educate the public on the importance of food safety practices.

Against this background, restaurant inspections were in the news this past week when Weld County, CO, adopted an A-to-F letter grading system, only to see it called into question by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

As Food Safety News readers know, the A-to-F letter grading was listed among former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s accomplishments when he left office at the end of 2013. It’s been depicted by some as both being popular with New Yorkers and reducing foodborne illness in the Big Apple. I’m not sure if either of those claims stand up on their own, or if they were just part of the Bloomberg propaganda machine.

For better or worse, Bloomberg’s much heralded posting of letter grades has been able the only restaurant inspection reform during this fiscally tough period when most local health departments have just struggled to keep doing the basics.

Colorado, for example, has used the same inspection regime developed in the early 1990s.  State and local officials are starting a process that could lead to the first changes in a generation in the basis inspection system.   They want a better way of communicating with the public based not on solo incidents while weighing the prevalence of specific violations.

Fiscal recovery at the state and local level will likely cause many other restaurant inspection programs to review what they are doing for the first time in years.  This might be a good time for a larger top-to-bottom review of the effectiveness of different restaurant inspection systems.

We were dubious when claims were made that Bloomberg’s letter grade postings were responsible for declines in foodborne illnesses in New York City.   But, maybe it’s true.   We’d like to see respected organizations like the Association of Food and Drug Officials and the National Association of County and City Health Officials get together and analyze restaurant inspection systems across the country and come up with recommendations on the most effective.

While we think this is a good time for the professionals to come up more effective restaurant inspections, there is another problem.   If, as the data suggests, there are only 1.3 inspections annually for each restaurant, we have a problem.  Many local departments inspect all their restaurants two or three times a year.   That means there are restaurants out waiting more than a year to get inspected.

We need effective restaurant inspections and we need more of them.  It’s time to recognize years of fiscal cutbacks at the state and local levels have taken their toll and do something about it.

 

 

Food Safety News

Letter From the Editor: Restaurant Inspections

My first job was behind a soda fountain in a small town general store with a lunch counter and four booths. Ever since, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I should someday open my own restaurant. Once, when I came close to doing it, a friend whom I’d talked out of buying a boat returned the favor by turning me away from the restaurant business.

A big job for food safety is the inspection of the nation’s 616,008 restaurants, where we drop 47 cents out of every dollar we spend on food. Inspecting all those restaurants and monitoring the food safety activities of their 13.5-million workers is a job that’s even too big for the federal government.

Restaurant inspections are a task we’ve assigned to approximately 2,800 local health departments, including city, county, metropolitan, district and tribal agencies. These local health departments license and inspect restaurants and provide food safety training for food service professionals.

State and local taxes and fees pay for restaurant inspections, and those funding sources have flatlined in recent years, leaving local health departments trying to do more with less. Many local programs call for doing two unannounced inspections at each restaurant per year.

However, the Association of Food and Drug Officials reports that local health departments conducted more than three-quarters of a million inspections (760,749) in 2009. The NPD Group, which tracks the restaurant market, says there were 584,653 restaurants operating in 2009. That means about 1.3 inspections per restaurant, not two. And local health department budget cuts had only begun in 2009. It’s likely there are restaurants in the U.S. that now go more than a year before being inspected.

And we depend on these local health departments for more than inspections. The National Association of County and City Health Officials, representing the 2,800 local departments, points out a few:

  • Trainings and technical assistance. Local health departments are responsible for training and certifying food safety managers at grocery stores, restaurants, and mobile food unit operations.
  • Frontline surveillance. Local health departments are often the first to receive and respond to reports of potential foodborne illness outbreaks and food safety-related consumer complaints at the local level.
  • Outbreak response and recalls. Local health departments respond to outbreaks, participate in recall efforts, and communicate with the public about outbreaks and recalls.
  • Public education. Local health departments utilize varied marketing and outreach techniques to educate the public on the importance of food safety practices.

Against this background, restaurant inspections were in the news this past week when Weld County, CO, adopted an A-to-F letter grading system, only to see it called into question by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

As Food Safety News readers know, the A-to-F letter grading was listed among former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s accomplishments when he left office at the end of 2013. It’s been depicted by some as both being popular with New Yorkers and reducing foodborne illness in the Big Apple. I’m not sure if either of those claims stand up on their own, or if they were just part of the Bloomberg propaganda machine.

For better or worse, Bloomberg’s much heralded posting of letter grades has been able the only restaurant inspection reform during this fiscally tough period when most local health departments have just struggled to keep doing the basics.

Colorado, for example, has used the same inspection regime developed in the early 1990s.  State and local officials are starting a process that could lead to the first changes in a generation in the basis inspection system.   They want a better way of communicating with the public based not on solo incidents while weighing the prevalence of specific violations.

Fiscal recovery at the state and local level will likely cause many other restaurant inspection programs to review what they are doing for the first time in years.  This might be a good time for a larger top-to-bottom review of the effectiveness of different restaurant inspection systems.

We were dubious when claims were made that Bloomberg’s letter grade postings were responsible for declines in foodborne illnesses in New York City.   But, maybe it’s true.   We’d like to see respected organizations like the Association of Food and Drug Officials and the National Association of County and City Health Officials get together and analyze restaurant inspection systems across the country and come up with recommendations on the most effective.

While we think this is a good time for the professionals to come up more effective restaurant inspections, there is another problem.   If, as the data suggests, there are only 1.3 inspections annually for each restaurant, we have a problem.  Many local departments inspect all their restaurants two or three times a year.   That means there are restaurants out waiting more than a year to get inspected.

We need effective restaurant inspections and we need more of them.  It’s time to recognize years of fiscal cutbacks at the state and local levels have taken their toll and do something about it.

 

 

Food Safety News

Letter From the Editor: Restaurant Inspections

My first job was behind a soda fountain in a small town general store with a lunch counter and four booths. Ever since, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I should someday open my own restaurant. Once, when I came close to doing it, a friend whom I’d talked out of buying a boat returned the favor by turning me away from the restaurant business.

A big job for food safety is the inspection of the nation’s 616,008 restaurants, where we drop 47 cents out of every dollar we spend on food. Inspecting all those restaurants and monitoring the food safety activities of their 13.5-million workers is a job that’s even too big for the federal government.

Restaurant inspections are a task we’ve assigned to approximately 2,800 local health departments, including city, county, metropolitan, district and tribal agencies. These local health departments license and inspect restaurants and provide food safety training for food service professionals.

State and local taxes and fees pay for restaurant inspections, and those funding sources have flatlined in recent years, leaving local health departments trying to do more with less. Many local programs call for doing two unannounced inspections at each restaurant per year.

However, the Association of Food and Drug Officials reports that local health departments conducted more than three-quarters of a million inspections (760,749) in 2009. The NPD Group, which tracks the restaurant market, says there were 584,653 restaurants operating in 2009. That means about 1.3 inspections per restaurant, not two. And local health department budget cuts had only begun in 2009. It’s likely there are restaurants in the U.S. that now go more than a year before being inspected.

And we depend on these local health departments for more than inspections. The National Association of County and City Health Officials, representing the 2,800 local departments, points out a few:

  • Trainings and technical assistance. Local health departments are responsible for training and certifying food safety managers at grocery stores, restaurants, and mobile food unit operations.
  • Frontline surveillance. Local health departments are often the first to receive and respond to reports of potential foodborne illness outbreaks and food safety-related consumer complaints at the local level.
  • Outbreak response and recalls. Local health departments respond to outbreaks, participate in recall efforts, and communicate with the public about outbreaks and recalls.
  • Public education. Local health departments utilize varied marketing and outreach techniques to educate the public on the importance of food safety practices.

Against this background, restaurant inspections were in the news this past week when Weld County, CO, adopted an A-to-F letter grading system, only to see it called into question by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

As Food Safety News readers know, the A-to-F letter grading was listed among former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s accomplishments when he left office at the end of 2013. It’s been depicted by some as both being popular with New Yorkers and reducing foodborne illness in the Big Apple. I’m not sure if either of those claims stand up on their own, or if they were just part of the Bloomberg propaganda machine.

For better or worse, Bloomberg’s much heralded posting of letter grades has been able the only restaurant inspection reform during this fiscally tough period when most local health departments have just struggled to keep doing the basics.

Colorado, for example, has used the same inspection regime developed in the early 1990s.  State and local officials are starting a process that could lead to the first changes in a generation in the basis inspection system.   They want a better way of communicating with the public based not on solo incidents while weighing the prevalence of specific violations.

Fiscal recovery at the state and local level will likely cause many other restaurant inspection programs to review what they are doing for the first time in years.  This might be a good time for a larger top-to-bottom review of the effectiveness of different restaurant inspection systems.

We were dubious when claims were made that Bloomberg’s letter grade postings were responsible for declines in foodborne illnesses in New York City.   But, maybe it’s true.   We’d like to see respected organizations like the Association of Food and Drug Officials and the National Association of County and City Health Officials get together and analyze restaurant inspection systems across the country and come up with recommendations on the most effective.

While we think this is a good time for the professionals to come up more effective restaurant inspections, there is another problem.   If, as the data suggests, there are only 1.3 inspections annually for each restaurant, we have a problem.  Many local departments inspect all their restaurants two or three times a year.   That means there are restaurants out waiting more than a year to get inspected.

We need effective restaurant inspections and we need more of them.  It’s time to recognize years of fiscal cutbacks at the state and local levels have taken their toll and do something about it.

 

 

Food Safety News

Letter From the Editor: Restaurant Inspections

My first job was behind a soda fountain in a small town general store with a lunch counter and four booths. Ever since, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I should someday open my own restaurant. Once, when I came close to doing it, a friend whom I’d talked out of buying a boat returned the favor by turning me away from the restaurant business.

A big job for food safety is the inspection of the nation’s 616,008 restaurants, where we drop 47 cents out of every dollar we spend on food. Inspecting all those restaurants and monitoring the food safety activities of their 13.5-million workers is a job that’s even too big for the federal government.

Restaurant inspections are a task we’ve assigned to approximately 2,800 local health departments, including city, county, metropolitan, district and tribal agencies. These local health departments license and inspect restaurants and provide food safety training for food service professionals.

State and local taxes and fees pay for restaurant inspections, and those funding sources have flatlined in recent years, leaving local health departments trying to do more with less. Many local programs call for doing two unannounced inspections at each restaurant per year.

However, the Association of Food and Drug Officials reports that local health departments conducted more than three-quarters of a million inspections (760,749) in 2009. The NPD Group, which tracks the restaurant market, says there were 584,653 restaurants operating in 2009. That means about 1.3 inspections per restaurant, not two. And local health department budget cuts had only begun in 2009. It’s likely there are restaurants in the U.S. that now go more than a year before being inspected.

And we depend on these local health departments for more than inspections. The National Association of County and City Health Officials, representing the 2,800 local departments, points out a few:

  • Trainings and technical assistance. Local health departments are responsible for training and certifying food safety managers at grocery stores, restaurants, and mobile food unit operations.
  • Frontline surveillance. Local health departments are often the first to receive and respond to reports of potential foodborne illness outbreaks and food safety-related consumer complaints at the local level.
  • Outbreak response and recalls. Local health departments respond to outbreaks, participate in recall efforts, and communicate with the public about outbreaks and recalls.
  • Public education. Local health departments utilize varied marketing and outreach techniques to educate the public on the importance of food safety practices.

Against this background, restaurant inspections were in the news this past week when Weld County, CO, adopted an A-to-F letter grading system, only to see it called into question by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

As Food Safety News readers know, the A-to-F letter grading was listed among former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s accomplishments when he left office at the end of 2013. It’s been depicted by some as both being popular with New Yorkers and reducing foodborne illness in the Big Apple. I’m not sure if either of those claims stand up on their own, or if they were just part of the Bloomberg propaganda machine.

For better or worse, Bloomberg’s much heralded posting of letter grades has been able the only restaurant inspection reform during this fiscally tough period when most local health departments have just struggled to keep doing the basics.

Colorado, for example, has used the same inspection regime developed in the early 1990s.  State and local officials are starting a process that could lead to the first changes in a generation in the basis inspection system.   They want a better way of communicating with the public based not on solo incidents while weighing the prevalence of specific violations.

Fiscal recovery at the state and local level will likely cause many other restaurant inspection programs to review what they are doing for the first time in years.  This might be a good time for a larger top-to-bottom review of the effectiveness of different restaurant inspection systems.

We were dubious when claims were made that Bloomberg’s letter grade postings were responsible for declines in foodborne illnesses in New York City.   But, maybe it’s true.   We’d like to see respected organizations like the Association of Food and Drug Officials and the National Association of County and City Health Officials get together and analyze restaurant inspection systems across the country and come up with recommendations on the most effective.

While we think this is a good time for the professionals to come up more effective restaurant inspections, there is another problem.   If, as the data suggests, there are only 1.3 inspections annually for each restaurant, we have a problem.  Many local departments inspect all their restaurants two or three times a year.   That means there are restaurants out waiting more than a year to get inspected.

We need effective restaurant inspections and we need more of them.  It’s time to recognize years of fiscal cutbacks at the state and local levels have taken their toll and do something about it.

 

 

Food Safety News

Letter From the Editor: Restaurant Inspections

My first job was behind a soda fountain in a small town general store with a lunch counter and four booths. Ever since, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I should someday open my own restaurant. Once, when I came close to doing it, a friend whom I’d talked out of buying a boat returned the favor by turning me away from the restaurant business.

A big job for food safety is the inspection of the nation’s 616,008 restaurants, where we drop 47 cents out of every dollar we spend on food. Inspecting all those restaurants and monitoring the food safety activities of their 13.5-million workers is a job that’s even too big for the federal government.

Restaurant inspections are a task we’ve assigned to approximately 2,800 local health departments, including city, county, metropolitan, district and tribal agencies. These local health departments license and inspect restaurants and provide food safety training for food service professionals.

State and local taxes and fees pay for restaurant inspections, and those funding sources have flatlined in recent years, leaving local health departments trying to do more with less. Many local programs call for doing two unannounced inspections at each restaurant per year.

However, the Association of Food and Drug Officials reports that local health departments conducted more than three-quarters of a million inspections (760,749) in 2009. The NPD Group, which tracks the restaurant market, says there were 584,653 restaurants operating in 2009. That means about 1.3 inspections per restaurant, not two. And local health department budget cuts had only begun in 2009. It’s likely there are restaurants in the U.S. that now go more than a year before being inspected.

And we depend on these local health departments for more than inspections. The National Association of County and City Health Officials, representing the 2,800 local departments, points out a few:

  • Trainings and technical assistance. Local health departments are responsible for training and certifying food safety managers at grocery stores, restaurants, and mobile food unit operations.
  • Frontline surveillance. Local health departments are often the first to receive and respond to reports of potential foodborne illness outbreaks and food safety-related consumer complaints at the local level.
  • Outbreak response and recalls. Local health departments respond to outbreaks, participate in recall efforts, and communicate with the public about outbreaks and recalls.
  • Public education. Local health departments utilize varied marketing and outreach techniques to educate the public on the importance of food safety practices.

Against this background, restaurant inspections were in the news this past week when Weld County, CO, adopted an A-to-F letter grading system, only to see it called into question by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

As Food Safety News readers know, the A-to-F letter grading was listed among former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s accomplishments when he left office at the end of 2013. It’s been depicted by some as both being popular with New Yorkers and reducing foodborne illness in the Big Apple. I’m not sure if either of those claims stand up on their own, or if they were just part of the Bloomberg propaganda machine.

For better or worse, Bloomberg’s much heralded posting of letter grades has been able the only restaurant inspection reform during this fiscally tough period when most local health departments have just struggled to keep doing the basics.

Colorado, for example, has used the same inspection regime developed in the early 1990s.  State and local officials are starting a process that could lead to the first changes in a generation in the basis inspection system.   They want a better way of communicating with the public based not on solo incidents while weighing the prevalence of specific violations.

Fiscal recovery at the state and local level will likely cause many other restaurant inspection programs to review what they are doing for the first time in years.  This might be a good time for a larger top-to-bottom review of the effectiveness of different restaurant inspection systems.

We were dubious when claims were made that Bloomberg’s letter grade postings were responsible for declines in foodborne illnesses in New York City.   But, maybe it’s true.   We’d like to see respected organizations like the Association of Food and Drug Officials and the National Association of County and City Health Officials get together and analyze restaurant inspection systems across the country and come up with recommendations on the most effective.

While we think this is a good time for the professionals to come up more effective restaurant inspections, there is another problem.   If, as the data suggests, there are only 1.3 inspections annually for each restaurant, we have a problem.  Many local departments inspect all their restaurants two or three times a year.   That means there are restaurants out waiting more than a year to get inspected.

We need effective restaurant inspections and we need more of them.  It’s time to recognize years of fiscal cutbacks at the state and local levels have taken their toll and do something about it.

 

 

Food Safety News

Letter From the Editor: Restaurant Inspections

My first job was behind a soda fountain in a small town general store with a lunch counter and four booths. Ever since, I’ve had it in the back of my mind that I should someday open my own restaurant. Once, when I came close to doing it, a friend whom I’d talked out of buying a boat returned the favor by turning me away from the restaurant business.

A big job for food safety is the inspection of the nation’s 616,008 restaurants, where we drop 47 cents out of every dollar we spend on food. Inspecting all those restaurants and monitoring the food safety activities of their 13.5-million workers is a job that’s even too big for the federal government.

Restaurant inspections are a task we’ve assigned to approximately 2,800 local health departments, including city, county, metropolitan, district and tribal agencies. These local health departments license and inspect restaurants and provide food safety training for food service professionals.

State and local taxes and fees pay for restaurant inspections, and those funding sources have flatlined in recent years, leaving local health departments trying to do more with less. Many local programs call for doing two unannounced inspections at each restaurant per year.

However, the Association of Food and Drug Officials reports that local health departments conducted more than three-quarters of a million inspections (760,749) in 2009. The NPD Group, which tracks the restaurant market, says there were 584,653 restaurants operating in 2009. That means about 1.3 inspections per restaurant, not two. And local health department budget cuts had only begun in 2009. It’s likely there are restaurants in the U.S. that now go more than a year before being inspected.

And we depend on these local health departments for more than inspections. The National Association of County and City Health Officials, representing the 2,800 local departments, points out a few:

  • Trainings and technical assistance. Local health departments are responsible for training and certifying food safety managers at grocery stores, restaurants, and mobile food unit operations.
  • Frontline surveillance. Local health departments are often the first to receive and respond to reports of potential foodborne illness outbreaks and food safety-related consumer complaints at the local level.
  • Outbreak response and recalls. Local health departments respond to outbreaks, participate in recall efforts, and communicate with the public about outbreaks and recalls.
  • Public education. Local health departments utilize varied marketing and outreach techniques to educate the public on the importance of food safety practices.

Against this background, restaurant inspections were in the news this past week when Weld County, CO, adopted an A-to-F letter grading system, only to see it called into question by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

As Food Safety News readers know, the A-to-F letter grading was listed among former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s accomplishments when he left office at the end of 2013. It’s been depicted by some as both being popular with New Yorkers and reducing foodborne illness in the Big Apple. I’m not sure if either of those claims stand up on their own, or if they were just part of the Bloomberg propaganda machine.

For better or worse, Bloomberg’s much heralded posting of letter grades has been able the only restaurant inspection reform during this fiscally tough period when most local health departments have just struggled to keep doing the basics.

Colorado, for example, has used the same inspection regime developed in the early 1990s.  State and local officials are starting a process that could lead to the first changes in a generation in the basis inspection system.   They want a better way of communicating with the public based not on solo incidents while weighing the prevalence of specific violations.

Fiscal recovery at the state and local level will likely cause many other restaurant inspection programs to review what they are doing for the first time in years.  This might be a good time for a larger top-to-bottom review of the effectiveness of different restaurant inspection systems.

We were dubious when claims were made that Bloomberg’s letter grade postings were responsible for declines in foodborne illnesses in New York City.   But, maybe it’s true.   We’d like to see respected organizations like the Association of Food and Drug Officials and the National Association of County and City Health Officials get together and analyze restaurant inspection systems across the country and come up with recommendations on the most effective.

While we think this is a good time for the professionals to come up more effective restaurant inspections, there is another problem.   If, as the data suggests, there are only 1.3 inspections annually for each restaurant, we have a problem.  Many local departments inspect all their restaurants two or three times a year.   That means there are restaurants out waiting more than a year to get inspected.

We need effective restaurant inspections and we need more of them.  It’s time to recognize years of fiscal cutbacks at the state and local levels have taken their toll and do something about it.

 

 

Food Safety News

Restaurant Inspections With Letter Grades Debut in Colorado

The letter grade system for reporting restaurant inspection results most associated with New York City has reached Colorado.

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term liberal billionaire mayor, first imposed an A-to-F posted grading system on Big Apple restaurants in 2010. Before Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, his letter grade system was being heralded as a major accomplishment of his 12-year tenure. It was being copied as far away as Florida, and public awareness in New York spread quickly by New Yorkers using apps to locate restaurants with A and B ratings.

Without warning or fanfare, letter grading has arrived in Colorado through a somewhat unlikely jurisdiction — conservative Weld County. It’s upset the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and left the state’s public health community a bit perplexed.

In a sense, what Weld County did was pretty simple. It did not change how restaurant inspections are scored and will continue using the same system with points assigned to a violation that Colorado restaurant inspections have been using since the 1990s.

Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), explains that the 1990s system is coming in for review.

“The department, in coordination with our local public health partners, is reviewing and considering revisions to our current ratings guidance,” Salley told Food Safety News. “Considerations include weighing the prevalence of the violation with the establishment and what mechanism is best to communicate these findings to the consumer.”

What Weld County did do is replace the adjectives: excellent, good, fair, poor and unacceptable, with A-to-F letter grades. Jeff Lawrence, who heads CDPHE’s environmental health and sustainability division, wants Weld County to at least keep the excellent, good, fair, and unacceptable ratings in parentheses, along with the letter grades, so there is consistency among all 35 local jurisdictions in Colorado doing restaurant inspections.

Bloomberg’s letter grade system was credited for its popularity with New Yorkers but also for its claims of having reduced incidents of foodborne illness. However, there are some doubts about that in Colorado.

“We know that CRA and the NRA (National Restaurant Association) have expressed concerns about the use and value of letter grades and that nationally there are other methods used by other regulatory agencies,” Lawrence notes. “These differing views and differing methods create that debate.”

Four years ago, Denver Environmental Health required restaurants with repeat violations to post those notices on their doors until corrections were made. CRA members hated the practice so much that they agreed to pay higher (some say much higher) fines for less public attention. It still requires public postings when a restaurant is closed for imminent health hazards or if one is found guilty in court of violating a health code.

Danica Lee, manager of Denver’s food safety section, says that violation data show lower rates of violation per inspection since the 2011 changes were made.

“There are no plans at this time to move to a letter rating system,” Lee says. “Some of the challenges with establishing rating systems include fairly reflecting a facility’s severity of violations as well as compliance history over multiple inspections.

Lee, however, adds that nothing is “off the table” and the department continuously evaluates the efficacy of the existing system for communicating with consumers. Denver restaurant inspection reports with inspector notes are available on the city’s website.”

Weld County is a 4,001-square-mile area south of the Wyoming-Colorado border and north of Denver International Airport. It is among the richest agricultural counties and most productive oil and gas areas in the U.S.  It plans on doing 2,650 food establishment inspections in 2015.

Food Safety News

Restaurant Inspections With Letter Grades Debut in Colorado

The letter grade system for reporting restaurant inspection results most associated with New York City has reached Colorado.

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term liberal billionaire mayor, first imposed an A-to-F posted grading system on Big Apple restaurants in 2010. Before Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, his letter grade system was being heralded as a major accomplishment of his 12-year tenure. It was being copied as far away as Florida, and public awareness in New York spread quickly by New Yorkers using apps to locate restaurants with A and B ratings.

Without warning or fanfare, letter grading has arrived in Colorado through a somewhat unlikely jurisdiction — conservative Weld County. It’s upset the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and left the state’s public health community a bit perplexed.

In a sense, what Weld County did was pretty simple. It did not change how restaurant inspections are scored and will continue using the same system with points assigned to a violation that Colorado restaurant inspections have been using since the 1990s.

Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), explains that the 1990s system is coming in for review.

“The department, in coordination with our local public health partners, is reviewing and considering revisions to our current ratings guidance,” Salley told Food Safety News. “Considerations include weighing the prevalence of the violation with the establishment and what mechanism is best to communicate these findings to the consumer.”

What Weld County did do is replace the adjectives: excellent, good, fair, poor and unacceptable, with A-to-F letter grades. Jeff Lawrence, who heads CDPHE’s environmental health and sustainability division, wants Weld County to at least keep the excellent, good, fair, and unacceptable ratings in parentheses, along with the letter grades, so there is consistency among all 35 local jurisdictions in Colorado doing restaurant inspections.

Bloomberg’s letter grade system was credited for its popularity with New Yorkers but also for its claims of having reduced incidents of foodborne illness. However, there are some doubts about that in Colorado.

“We know that CRA and the NRA (National Restaurant Association) have expressed concerns about the use and value of letter grades and that nationally there are other methods used by other regulatory agencies,” Lawrence notes. “These differing views and differing methods create that debate.”

Four years ago, Denver Environmental Health required restaurants with repeat violations to post those notices on their doors until corrections were made. CRA members hated the practice so much that they agreed to pay higher (some say much higher) fines for less public attention. It still requires public postings when a restaurant is closed for imminent health hazards or if one is found guilty in court of violating a health code.

Danica Lee, manager of Denver’s food safety section, says that violation data show lower rates of violation per inspection since the 2011 changes were made.

“There are no plans at this time to move to a letter rating system,” Lee says. “Some of the challenges with establishing rating systems include fairly reflecting a facility’s severity of violations as well as compliance history over multiple inspections.

Lee, however, adds that nothing is “off the table” and the department continuously evaluates the efficacy of the existing system for communicating with consumers. Denver restaurant inspection reports with inspector notes are available on the city’s website.”

Weld County is a 4,001-square-mile area south of the Wyoming-Colorado border and north of Denver International Airport. It is among the richest agricultural counties and most productive oil and gas areas in the U.S.  It plans on doing 2,650 food establishment inspections in 2015.

Food Safety News

Restaurant Inspections With Letter Grades Debut in Colorado

The letter grade system for reporting restaurant inspection results most associated with New York City has reached Colorado.

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term liberal billionaire mayor, first imposed an A-to-F posted grading system on Big Apple restaurants in 2010. Before Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, his letter grade system was being heralded as a major accomplishment of his 12-year tenure. It was being copied as far away as Florida, and public awareness in New York spread quickly by New Yorkers using apps to locate restaurants with A and B ratings.

Without warning or fanfare, letter grading has arrived in Colorado through a somewhat unlikely jurisdiction — conservative Weld County. It’s upset the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and left the state’s public health community a bit perplexed.

In a sense, what Weld County did was pretty simple. It did not change how restaurant inspections are scored and will continue using the same system with points assigned to a violation that Colorado restaurant inspections have been using since the 1990s.

Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), explains that the 1990s system is coming in for review.

“The department, in coordination with our local public health partners, is reviewing and considering revisions to our current ratings guidance,” Salley told Food Safety News. “Considerations include weighing the prevalence of the violation with the establishment and what mechanism is best to communicate these findings to the consumer.”

What Weld County did do is replace the adjectives: excellent, good, fair, poor and unacceptable, with A-to-F letter grades. Jeff Lawrence, who heads CDPHE’s environmental health and sustainability division, wants Weld County to at least keep the excellent, good, fair, and unacceptable ratings in parentheses, along with the letter grades, so there is consistency among all 35 local jurisdictions in Colorado doing restaurant inspections.

Bloomberg’s letter grade system was credited for its popularity with New Yorkers but also for its claims of having reduced incidents of foodborne illness. However, there are some doubts about that in Colorado.

“We know that CRA and the NRA (National Restaurant Association) have expressed concerns about the use and value of letter grades and that nationally there are other methods used by other regulatory agencies,” Lawrence notes. “These differing views and differing methods create that debate.”

Four years ago, Denver Environmental Health required restaurants with repeat violations to post those notices on their doors until corrections were made. CRA members hated the practice so much that they agreed to pay higher (some say much higher) fines for less public attention. It still requires public postings when a restaurant is closed for imminent health hazards or if one is found guilty in court of violating a health code.

Danica Lee, manager of Denver’s food safety section, says that violation data show lower rates of violation per inspection since the 2011 changes were made.

“There are no plans at this time to move to a letter rating system,” Lee says. “Some of the challenges with establishing rating systems include fairly reflecting a facility’s severity of violations as well as compliance history over multiple inspections.

Lee, however, adds that nothing is “off the table” and the department continuously evaluates the efficacy of the existing system for communicating with consumers. Denver restaurant inspection reports with inspector notes are available on the city’s website.”

Weld County is a 4,001-square-mile area south of the Wyoming-Colorado border and north of Denver International Airport. It is among the richest agricultural counties and most productive oil and gas areas in the U.S.  It plans on doing 2,650 food establishment inspections in 2015.

Food Safety News

Restaurant Inspections With Letter Grades Debut in Colorado

The letter grade system for reporting restaurant inspection results most associated with New York City has reached Colorado.

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term liberal billionaire mayor, first imposed an A-to-F posted grading system on Big Apple restaurants in 2010. Before Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, his letter grade system was being heralded as a major accomplishment of his 12-year tenure. It was being copied as far away as Florida, and public awareness in New York spread quickly by New Yorkers using apps to locate restaurants with A and B ratings.

Without warning or fanfare, letter grading has arrived in Colorado through a somewhat unlikely jurisdiction — conservative Weld County. It’s upset the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and left the state’s public health community a bit perplexed.

In a sense, what Weld County did was pretty simple. It did not change how restaurant inspections are scored and will continue using the same system with points assigned to a violation that Colorado restaurant inspections have been using since the 1990s.

Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), explains that the 1990s system is coming in for review.

“The department, in coordination with our local public health partners, is reviewing and considering revisions to our current ratings guidance,” Salley told Food Safety News. “Considerations include weighing the prevalence of the violation with the establishment and what mechanism is best to communicate these findings to the consumer.”

What Weld County did do is replace the adjectives: excellent, good, fair, poor and unacceptable, with A-to-F letter grades. Jeff Lawrence, who heads CDPHE’s environmental health and sustainability division, wants Weld County to at least keep the excellent, good, fair, and unacceptable ratings in parentheses, along with the letter grades, so there is consistency among all 35 local jurisdictions in Colorado doing restaurant inspections.

Bloomberg’s letter grade system was credited for its popularity with New Yorkers but also for its claims of having reduced incidents of foodborne illness. However, there are some doubts about that in Colorado.

“We know that CRA and the NRA (National Restaurant Association) have expressed concerns about the use and value of letter grades and that nationally there are other methods used by other regulatory agencies,” Lawrence notes. “These differing views and differing methods create that debate.”

Four years ago, Denver Environmental Health required restaurants with repeat violations to post those notices on their doors until corrections were made. CRA members hated the practice so much that they agreed to pay higher (some say much higher) fines for less public attention. It still requires public postings when a restaurant is closed for imminent health hazards or if one is found guilty in court of violating a health code.

Danica Lee, manager of Denver’s food safety section, says that violation data show lower rates of violation per inspection since the 2011 changes were made.

“There are no plans at this time to move to a letter rating system,” Lee says. “Some of the challenges with establishing rating systems include fairly reflecting a facility’s severity of violations as well as compliance history over multiple inspections.

Lee, however, adds that nothing is “off the table” and the department continuously evaluates the efficacy of the existing system for communicating with consumers. Denver restaurant inspection reports with inspector notes are available on the city’s website.”

Weld County is a 4,001-square-mile area south of the Wyoming-Colorado border and north of Denver International Airport. It is among the richest agricultural counties and most productive oil and gas areas in the U.S.  It plans on doing 2,650 food establishment inspections in 2015.

Food Safety News

Restaurant Inspections With Letter Grades Debut in Colorado

The letter grade system for reporting restaurant inspection results most associated with New York City has reached Colorado.

Michael Bloomberg, the three-term liberal billionaire mayor, first imposed an A-to-F posted grading system on Big Apple restaurants in 2010. Before Bloomberg left office at the end of 2013, his letter grade system was being heralded as a major accomplishment of his 12-year tenure. It was being copied as far away as Florida, and public awareness in New York spread quickly by New Yorkers using apps to locate restaurants with A and B ratings.

Without warning or fanfare, letter grading has arrived in Colorado through a somewhat unlikely jurisdiction — conservative Weld County. It’s upset the Colorado Restaurant Association (CRA) and left the state’s public health community a bit perplexed.

In a sense, what Weld County did was pretty simple. It did not change how restaurant inspections are scored and will continue using the same system with points assigned to a violation that Colorado restaurant inspections have been using since the 1990s.

Mark Salley, communications director for the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment (CDPHE), explains that the 1990s system is coming in for review.

“The department, in coordination with our local public health partners, is reviewing and considering revisions to our current ratings guidance,” Salley told Food Safety News. “Considerations include weighing the prevalence of the violation with the establishment and what mechanism is best to communicate these findings to the consumer.”

What Weld County did do is replace the adjectives: excellent, good, fair, poor and unacceptable, with A-to-F letter grades. Jeff Lawrence, who heads CDPHE’s environmental health and sustainability division, wants Weld County to at least keep the excellent, good, fair, and unacceptable ratings in parentheses, along with the letter grades, so there is consistency among all 35 local jurisdictions in Colorado doing restaurant inspections.

Bloomberg’s letter grade system was credited for its popularity with New Yorkers but also for its claims of having reduced incidents of foodborne illness. However, there are some doubts about that in Colorado.

“We know that CRA and the NRA (National Restaurant Association) have expressed concerns about the use and value of letter grades and that nationally there are other methods used by other regulatory agencies,” Lawrence notes. “These differing views and differing methods create that debate.”

Four years ago, Denver Environmental Health required restaurants with repeat violations to post those notices on their doors until corrections were made. CRA members hated the practice so much that they agreed to pay higher (some say much higher) fines for less public attention. It still requires public postings when a restaurant is closed for imminent health hazards or if one is found guilty in court of violating a health code.

Danica Lee, manager of Denver’s food safety section, says that violation data show lower rates of violation per inspection since the 2011 changes were made.

“There are no plans at this time to move to a letter rating system,” Lee says. “Some of the challenges with establishing rating systems include fairly reflecting a facility’s severity of violations as well as compliance history over multiple inspections.

Lee, however, adds that nothing is “off the table” and the department continuously evaluates the efficacy of the existing system for communicating with consumers. Denver restaurant inspection reports with inspector notes are available on the city’s website.”

Weld County is a 4,001-square-mile area south of the Wyoming-Colorado border and north of Denver International Airport. It is among the richest agricultural counties and most productive oil and gas areas in the U.S.  It plans on doing 2,650 food establishment inspections in 2015.

Food Safety News