Ed Lump, president and CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, writes in the LaCrosse Tribune that to say food safety in restaurants and other food outlets is important is an understatement. However, the public doesn’t hear much about it unless there is an actual outbreak of foodborne illness. Occasionally, awareness is heightened by publication in local newspapers or TV segments about restaurant inspection reports.
On Jan. 1, we took another big step forward as a new law (strengthening a 20-year-old existing law) went into effect. The original law requires that every restaurant in Wisconsin, regardless of size, have at least one manager on staff certified in food safety (Certified Food Protection Manager). To become certified, the manager has to pass a state approved exam.
The existing law also requires that a Certified Food Protection Manager be recertified every five years. However, recertification was accomplished by class time — no exam. Now an exam is required for both original certification and recertification. WRA feels this is the best way to ensure the manager demonstrates knowledge and is up-to-date on current science and food codes. By the way, the city of Milwaukee has required this since 2008, which our association also supported.
This is why food safety knowledge accountability is critical. WRA supported this stricter re-certification process because it helps to protect customers, restaurants and our industry from dangerous and costly outbreaks of foodborne illness.
Lump doesn’t say whether that certified manager has to be present or at home.
That’s where disclosure can play a role.
Sari Lesk of Stevens Point Journal Media, home of Portage county, Wisconsin, writes that Portage County diners can now go online, before they go out, to find out how a local restaurant performed in its most recent health inspection.
Users can tell if a restaurant’s health violations fall under one of three categories:
- Priority: Violations such as improper cooking, reheating, cooling, or handwashing. These violations are known to cause foodborne illnesses. Uncorrected priority observations usually result in a reinspection.
- Priority foundation:Violations such as no soap or single-use toweling available for handwashing, failure of the person in charge to properly train employees, not maintaining required documentation, labeling or records. These observations support or enable a priority violation and may contribute to a foodborne illness. Priority foundation observations will be reexamined during the next routine inspection.
- Core:Violations that usually relate to general sanitation, operational controls, sanitation standard operating procedures, facilities or structures, equipment design, or general maintenance. Core observations will be reexamined during the next routine inspection.
The website also lists recommendations for correcting the violations, and notes whether they were corrected in a follow-up inspection.
Public health environmental specialist Lindsay Benaszeski cautions that the information should be looked at as a snapshot in time, but that the business owners she’s told about the online access have largely been receptive to the idea, adding, “It’s kind of a way to showcase their facility if they’re doing a great job,” she said.
Some restaurant owners disagree, however. Jim Billings, president of the Portage County Tavern League and owner of Final Score, said he thinks the information could be easily misconstrued by someone who does not work in the restaurant business.