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Thursday, July 07, 2005

Are Lynchburg Restaurants Safe? Part 3

Below are copies of corespondance from the FDA and the Virginia Department of Health. Part 4, with the conclusions we have made will be posted tommorow


From the FDA

Dear Bob:

The Food Code is a model that assists food control jurisdictions at alllevels of government by providing them with a scientifically sound technicaland legal basis for regulating the retail and food service segment of theindustry. Local, state, tribal, and federal regulators use the FDA Food Codeas a model to develop or update their own food safety rules and to beconsistent with national food regulatory policy.It also serves as a reference of best practices for the retail and foodservice industries (restaurants and grocery stores and institutions such asnursing homes) on how to prevent foodborne illness. Many of the over 1million retail and food service establishments apply Food Code provisions totheir own operations.I hope that answers your question.

Please let me know if I can be ofadditional assistance
.Sincerely,Stephen KingPublic Affairs Specialist
6000 Metro Drive, Suite 101Baltimore, Maryland
21215410-779
-5426410-779-5707 - Fax


Bob wrote:

> Dear Mr. Jim Bowles:
>
> This is a follow up email to previous questions that I have asked concerning
> the health status of food service employees. I am nearly complete in my
> research of this subject and have accessed the following resources:
>
> FDA
> CDC
> The Virginia code
> VDH 12 vac 5 421 80
> The National Resturant Assoc.
> Restaurant inspection reports in the Central Virginia Area by the VDH
>
> My major question to you now is:
>
> From what I gather from the Virginia Code and 12 vac 5 421 80, is that
> the safety of limiting food borne disease transmission in resturants, relies
> mostly on the reporting of the actual food service employee and limited if
> any checks on the reliability is done. Am I correct in this conclusion?
>
> I respectfully ask your reply on this matter and the previous questions I
> have asked. It is my intention to publish our correspondance.
>
> Thank you,
>
> Bob
>
> Previous correspondance is below:
>
> I have recently supplied a direct link to your site for restaurant
> inspections in the Lynchburg area. We appreciate that you provide this
> information to the public.
>
> I have a reader who posted a comment on my site over concerns of the health
> status of food service workers. I thought she brought up some very valid
> points. So I would like to ask these questions to you. Are there any
> montoring steps taken by health department to screen food service workers
> for communicatable diseases? Do any restaurants in the Lynchburg area do
> any health screenings? And what is the Virginia Department of Health
> position on this matter?
>
> If you would like to view our site the address is:
> http://lynchburgvirginia.blogspot.com/
> This site has a growing readership in the Lynchburg area in another 3 or 4
> days we will have a 1,000 visitors to this site since its inception on June
> 12th of this year.
>
> Thank you again for your efforts to keep the residents of the Central
> Virginia informed on the status of food inspections.

I have a reader who posted a comment on my site over concerns of the health
status of food service workers. I thought she brought up some very valid
points. So I would like to ask these questions to you. Are there any
montoring steps taken by health department to screen food service workers
for communicatable diseases? Do any restaurants in the Lynchburg area do
any health screenings? And what is the Virginia Department of Health
position on this matter?

From the Virginia Health Department:

Hi. Sorry for not responding sooner, but I've been out of the office most of the week. I'm sending a reply as an attachment. Please let me know if you have any further questions. Thanks, Jim

It is difficult to answer this question thoroughly, briefly and without getting overly technical, but I’ll try, starting with the last question first. Virginia’s regulations are, essentially, an adoption of the Food and Drug Administration’s Model Food Code, with some minor changes to reflect legal requirements and procedures specific to this state. The following is a quote from “Annex 3: Public Health Reasons/Administrative Guidelines” in the 1999 Model Food Code:
“Periodic testing of food employees for the presence of diseases transmissible through food is not cost effective or reliable.”

The health department does not screen food service workers for communicable diseases. I’m not aware of any restaurants that do so either. Public health and food safety professionals accept the fact that screening is not an effective method of preventing foodborne illnesses. In order to confirm that a food handler is infected with an organism that can be transmitted through food, laboratory diagnosis is necessary. There is a lag time between obtaining a sample and getting the laboratory report. By the time the laboratory report is received, the person may have become infected, so that a negative laboratory report is meaningless by the time you receive it. At the same time, simply being infected with an organism that is transmissible by food is not automatically a reason to restrict a person from employment. Restriction or exclusion is typically only necessary while the person has active symptoms of the disease, provided that the person practices good hygiene (proper hand washing). Therefore, health departments require, and rely upon, the reporting of certain symptoms, such as diarrhea, to by the employee to the person in charge of the restaurant, and require the person in charge to take appropriate action. During routine evaluation of food safety and sanitation procedures, health department staff should review these requirements with the person in charge.

Another important point to bear in mind is that there are multiple safeguards required by the regulations in order to prevent foodborne illness. If an infected food handler was to contaminate a raw food, the proper cooking temperature would destroy the infectious agent, preventing transmission of the agent through the food. The riskiest operation, in terms of transmitting an illness from a food handler to the public, is handling of prepared, ready-to-eat items. For that reason, food codes and regulations strongly stress avoiding bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods and require that those foods be handled with utensils whenever possible, or that the workers wear gloves. When we inspect restaurants, we look very closely to determine whether handling of ready-to-eat food follows proper procedures. We also, of course emphasize the importance of regular and thorough hand washing, which is one of the most effective means of preventing transmission of communicable diseases in almost all settings.

It is also important to realize that not all communicable disease can be transmitted through food. In fact, most communicable diseases are not.



From what I gather from the Virginia Code and 12 vac 5 421 80, is that
the safety of limiting food borne disease transmission in resturants, relies
mostly on the reporting of the actual food service employee and limited if
any checks on the reliability is done. Am I correct in this conclusion?

Yes, you are correct. However, many of the disease of concern are “reportable”, meaning that physicians and laboratories are required to report cases to the local health department. Health department personnel complete follow-up investigations on reports to determine if those cases are employed as in high risk situations (for example, a cook with Salmonella). If necessary, we restrict those persons from work. We see very few cases among food handlers who are actively working during the illness.


(Restaurant reviews and safety)

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