The Hawaii State Department of Health will hold public hearings on the Big Island to introduce new food safety regulations that will affect all restaurants and food establishments in the state. The last substantial change to these rules was made in 1996.
Highlights of the new food safety rules include: adoption of the 2009 U.S. Food and Drug Administration Model Food Code as the basis for the rules; introduction of a highly visible restaurant grading system that will require food establishments to post the results of their last state inspection; move to annual permitting from biennial permitting; and permit fee increases.
The new grading system will consist of “pass” (green), “conditional pass” (yellow), and “closed” (red) placards. A “pass” placard will be given to food facilities that have one major violation or less that is corrected prior to completion of the inspection. A “conditional pass” placard will be issued to a facility with two or more major violations during an inspection regardless of whether the violations are corrected on site. Major violations require a follow-up inspection. Follow-up inspections are conducted the next working day after notification from the facility that all major violations have been corrected. A “closed” red placard will be issued if there are imminent health hazards that warrant immediate closure of the facility — lack of water, lack of electricity, sewage overflows in food preparation areas, sick employees, vermin infestation, etc.
It is anticipated that the fee increases outlined in the new food safety rules will fund 13 additional full-time inspector positions granted by the state Legislature to be filled in fiscal years 2012-2015. The additional staffing will support an expanded inspection schedule that will include a minimum of three on-site inspections each year for high-risk establishments, two on-site inspections each year for medium risk establishments, and annual visits for all other establishments to meet national program standards and reduce foodborne illness.
To rules, “Food Safety Code,” go to health.hawaii.gov/san/.
Public hearings will be held at the following dates and locations:
— Hilo: Monday, Dec. 2, at 1 p.m. at the Environmental Health Facility conference room, 1582 Kamehameha Ave.
— Kona: Tuesday, Dec. 3, at 1 p.m. at the West Hawaii Civic Center — Liquor Control conference room, 74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Highway