By Brian Montgomery
Pennsylvania's Governor, Ed Rendell, recently signed into law a new bill that will standardize all of the state's restaurant inspections. When the law, Act 106 of 2010, takes effect in January 2011, all inspections must be performed according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's National Model Retail Food Code, whether the inspections are performed by state inspectors or local health inspectors. Under previous regulations, local jurisdictions were allowed to have their own inspection procedures and reporting mechanisms, and weren't required to forward their reports to the state's Department of Agriculture.
One especially noteworthy provision of the bill is that if a restaurant fails its first inspection and still doesn't pass after the first re-inspection, they will have to foot the bill for each subsequent re-inspection, rather than the taxpayers.
The Pennsylvania Restaurant Association came out in favor of the law's changes even while the bill was still being debated in the legislature. But not all news coverage of the bill is supportive, with article titles like New Restaurant Inspection Law Worries Officials (Harrisburg Patriot-News), or Restaurant Inspection Law Causing a Stir (CBS 21 News website). And most of the negative reactions seem to center around the potential for added expense and inconvenience.
Which I don't totally understand...as a restaurant manager, if your operation is up to code, what do you have to worry about? Make sure you pass the inspection the first time! I do understand concerns that there are only so many food inspectors to go around, and that will be a challenge for cash-strapped municipalities as well as the state inspectors. But remember that the bill also eliminates a lot of overlapping jurisdiction, which is part of the mess in the first place!
You might also have heard in recent national news that the United States Senate passed the Food Safety Modernization Act, which among other things, allows the FDA to inspect food processing plants more frequently, establish stricter food safety standards and enact more food safety regulations, and gives the government more authority in issuing food recalls.
Notice a common theme here? A more centralized, coherent approach to food safety regulation and inspection seems to be the trend. Without getting into a debate over more or less government oversight, the bottom line is the current hodgepodge "system" isn't always good enough, as evidenced by recent Salmonella and E. Coli outbreaks that made national news.
But luckily, making sure your business complies with all regulations doesn't have to be expensive or inconvenient. Here at WEBstaurantStore.com, we have an entire category dedicated to food safety supplies at great prices!
In a future blog post I'll discuss what the FDA considers the Top 5 Foodborne Illness Risk Factors and show you some great food safety supplies that can help out.