There are roughly 5,500 restaurants and other food facilities in Sacramento County, and it is the important responsibility of the County’s Environmental Management Department (EMD) to enforce health code compliance and prevent foodborne illness through inspections. However, these routine inspections are anything but routine – EMD’s staff, called Environmental Specialists, meticulously conduct unscheduled, onsite inspections three times a year for every restaurant in our County.
Bradley J. Hudson, Sacramento County Executive, said, “Restaurant commerce generates valuable jobs and tax dollars in our communities and these inspections contribute to safe food and the continued growth of our local restaurant industry.”
From top to bottom, inside and out, the inspector walks into the food facility, makes introduction with the manager and then goes to work in the kitchen to measure temperatures of prepared food; looks in cabinets and under counters for cleanliness; opens walk-in refrigerators to certify for proper temperature and to check the order in which meats and vegetables are shelved; ensures there is hot water, soap and paper towels; tests cleaning solutions for proper potency; and ensures the facility is in a sanitary condition – all in the effort to thoroughly evaluate food safety. At the end of the inspection, the food facility will receive a placard that rates their compliance. Green is a pass, yellow is a conditional pass – meaning there is some work to do to get into compliance, and red is an immediate closure of the facility due to an imminent health threat.
Find restaurant and food facility inspection reports for Sacramento County at www.foodinspect.saccounty.net.
Food safety is a top priority for 14-year veteran Environmental Specialist inspector, Sonia Andrusiak. Even though she’s an inspector, she really considers herself an educator. “The entire time I’m inspecting, I’m communicating with the staff and managers, asking them questions, reinforcing their food safety training and educating them about safe practices and new health codes.”
In her designated inspection district, Andrusiak said food safety is the absolute objective, but she also enjoys developing a rapport with the owners and managers since she sees them a few times a year. The inspections she conducts, she said, can take one hour or five hours depending on the size and complexity of the facility and she generally inspects 5-6 food facilities a day.
John Rogers, Environmental Health Division Chief said, “We want restaurants and other food facilities in our County to be successful, that’s why EMD offers Food Safety Education Classes in multiple languages at regular intervals so that food handlers improve safe food handling practices and reduce the potential for foodborne illness.”
Free food safety classes, held at 10590 Armstrong Ave at the Mather Business Park, cover the principles and include time/temperature control, personal hygiene, food contamination and facility sanitation. As well, food safety training videos are offered from the EMD website.
The EMD staff is also at big events in the County like June’s Senior Golf Open and July’s State Fair.
FOOD PROTECTION AT THE SENIOR GOLF OPEN 2015
More than 125,000 people were welcomed to the US Golf Association’s 2015 Senior Open Golf Tournament at Del Paso Country club from June 22 to June 28. An event this size required advanced food safety planning by EMD with the tournament’s caterer and to ensure the permits were complete and food preparation for the event was safely executed. A suitable food facility for off-site food preparation was arranged to prepare, wash, cook, and store the food using large climate-controlled tents and five refrigerated trucks. Keeping food cold was critical as the temperature soared into the triple digits two of the days.
At the tournament, even though the food booths were temporary – and required a bit of creativity to set up – they never compromised food safety.
“These were not typical food booths,” said Ajay Sharma, Senior Environmental Specialist, “The cook and prep area had five ovens, four hot holding cabinets, and 40 insulated hot food transport containers to deliver food to the event from the offsite prep area. Daily, all these factors were instrumental in keeping the food safe during the entire tournament.”
EMD’s teamwork and cooperation was successful and made food safe for golfers, organizers and spectators.
BIZARRE FOODS ALSO PROTECTED AT THE STATE FAIR
EMD made sure the corndog, and all its on-a-stick cousins, as well as, a multitude of bacon-wrapped or deep-fried delicacies and other bizarre foods were safe from foodborne illnesses at the recently concluded California State Fair by holding food safety classes at Cal Expo.
Just before the fair opened, the classes were offered in English and Spanish to reiterate proper food handling for the food booth operators. The following day the media was invited to get a behind-the-scenes look at actual food booth inspections. In all, there were 172 food booth inspections over the 17 days of the fair.
EMD’s goal every year at this hugely popular family-friendly event is to protect the public against foodborne illness so they can enjoy all the State Fair has to offer.