Health department preps for stricter state policy regarding food handling

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 10:05pm

The Metro Public Health Department begins Wednesday the process of informing the county’s restaurants of a state policy change that will forbid the handling of ready-to-eat food with unprotected hands.

Last week, the Tennessee Department of Health’s Division of General Environmental Health changed the policy, which to date has allowed for “minimized” barehanded contact. With the new policy, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2012, and will be phased in this calendar year, food handlers must use, for example, plastic gloves, wax paper, deli paper or tongs. 

Read a copy of the policy here.

Steve Crosier, director of the Metro Health Department’s Food Protection Services Division, said his inspectors spent Tuesday preparing about 2,100 mailing material envelops to alert restaurant owners of the new policy.

“We’ll be informing the food service establishments throughout 2011,” Crosier said.

Though no inspection point reduction for violations are required for 2011, Crosier said his team plans an assertive approach this year. In addition to the mailers, the division inspectors will hand deliver information during their six-month-interval inspections.

“This is probably one of the more significant policy changes within the food safety realm,” said Crosier, who has been with the division since 1984.

Crosier said his team will hit the field Wednesday ready to provide information about the policy change. He said some restaurant owners might be unaware of the change, while others, particularly those corporate fast food chain operations, already have such a policy in place.

Many states have a similar policy, too, Crosier added.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture will also be involved in the effort, as it oversees food retail operations such as groceries and convenience markets.

Food safety and cleanliness has made headlines the past few years, particularly related to the norovirus.

 

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