April Fools’ Day: Summit health department will now inspect your filthy kitchen
Environmental Health Manager
In a major step forward for local food safety, Summit County Environmental Health is pleased to announce the forthcoming launch of its new Residential Food Safety Inspection Program. Food safety inspections at local restaurants have been a critical service offered by our department for decades to protect the health of the dining public. We’re excited to bring that expertise into the residential arena, with the goal of preventing food borne illness more comprehensively.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 percent of food borne illness outbreaks originate in private homes. Not only are these illnesses the leading cause of getting cozy with a toilet, but they pose a significant health risk to the young, elderly and immuno-compromised populations. The majority of these cases occur during holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, July 4 and Halloween, when home cooks are preparing meals for greater numbers than they’re accustomed to and cooking foods that aren’t part of their typical repertoire.
To address this challenge head-on, the Environmental Health Division of Summit County Public Health is now in the process of ramping up its staffing to add eight residential inspectors, which will triple the size of our existing food safety team. Randomized, unannounced food safety inspections will begin in local homes on July 1, the start of the Independence Day weekend.
We realize that, for some of you, these inspections may feel somewhat intrusive, because you’re not accustomed to having an inspector in your kitchen the way a restaurant worker is. But we want to assure you that we are on your side, and the health of you, your family and your guests is our No. 1 goal. Our approach will have a heavy emphasis on education, and we will issue citations only for the most egregious violations. All inspection results will be available for public review online.
“A guest who’s over to celebrate a birthday, barbecue or Thanksgiving dinner should be afforded the same expectations of food safety as if they were going to a restaurant,” inspector Seth Diner said. “I once had the unfortunate experience of getting sick at my family’s Christmas Eve dinner. Instead of wrapping presents, I was driving the porcelain bus. Had I been in the kitchen observing and coaching my aunt and uncle, it all could have been avoided.”
Our highly specialized inspectors will oversee proper hygienic practices and safe food temperatures throughout the entirety of each event. They’ll observe proper hand washing and glove use to stop the spread of communicable diseases such as norovirus and salmonella. On Thanksgiving Day, staff will be armed with ice wands to ensure that gravies and soups are cooled properly and promptly after the meal, before weary cooks give in to the tryptophan plunge. Our goal is to check every home fridge in Summit County at least once in 2017.
In preparation for these random audits, we encourage you to take some proactive steps in your home kitchen. These include, but are not limited to, having multiple boxes of gloves of various sizes, adequate backup supplies of hand-wash soap, food thermometers and hair nets. We’re confident that this expanded presence in our community will keep families out on the mountain or the recpath, rather than inside, suffering through a case of highly preventable two-bucket disease. We look forward to seeing you in July!
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