As of the first of the year, the state of Florida has adopted provisions of the 2009 Food and Drug Administration Food Code, which is meant to reduce risk factors that can contribute to foodborne illnesses. One of the most significant changes that have been implemented involves the way health code violations are categorized. And I think this is an important and welcome change.
In the past, health inspectors issued two types of violations: critical and noncritical. I often took issue with the word critical. The problem was that some trespasses that were labeled as critical weren’t necessarily so. For example, you know that sign that you see in restrooms that says something to the effect that “employees must wash hands”? Failure to display that sign was considered a critical violation. I always found it odd that the missing sign would have the same weight as a health violation as would an employee who failed to wash his or her hands after using the toilet. And when consumers went to the trouble to track down the latest inspections for their favorite restaurants, usually all they would see would be the number of critical violations and noncritical violations without considering the details.
Under the new rules, the inspectors will note violations in three categories: High Priority, Intermediate and Basic.
High Priority violations include those directly involved in food preparation and handling — cooking, reheating, cooling and, yes, hand washing — that could most directly contribute to foodborne illness or injury.
Intermediate violations are classified as problems that could, if not addressed, lead to foodborne illness or injury. Those are personnel training, documentation, record keeping and labeling. This is where the missing hand-washing sign would come in.
Basic violation include general sanitation, operational controls, standard operating procedures, and general maintenance. What’s odd about this category is that it does include some violations that could potentially lead to foodborne illness, such as the failure to separate raw meat from ready to eat foods.
But this is definitely a step in the right direction.
What do you think about the new rules? And would you like to see Central Florida implement a requirement for restaurants to display their current inspection? What about issuing a grading system, similar to New York? Leave a comment below.