Local health inspector to hit restaurants soon
County's building inspector gets trained in food service standards
About 76 million food born illnesses are reported nationwide each year, according to recently hired Moffat County Public Health Inspector Pat Mosbey.
About 20,000 of those result in hospitalization, and 5,000 of those people die.
But beginning sometime in February, Moffat County will undertake efforts to make sure those cases are held to a minimum at a local level.
Instead of relying on state inspections, Mosbey will visit local restaurants and make sure the food being served to those eating out in Moffat County is being prepared and handled properly by restaurant employees.
“We want to give all food service workers the right tools to handle food safely,” Mosbey said. “A lot of mom and pop restaurants just hire people and put them to work. We just want to ensure the public that these people are trained properly.”
Discussions to hire a health inspector were spurred last summer by local health officials.
The reason, they said, was the lack of inspections conducted annually by the state.
Mosbey said he will only conduct two inspections a year, just like the state was doing.
But because he is local, the inspections will be conducted at random.
When the state does it, he said, they’ll send an inspector up for a week to do all 66 food retail establishments in the county.
“They sent people in a week at a time and people were alerted that an inspector was coming,” he said. “Now it will be a lot more random and restaurants won’t know when to expect it.”
Mosbey said he will only inspect restaurants twice a year and do follow-ups when necessary.
He stressed that his position is that of an educator for local restaurants.
“I don’t want to come in there as a heavy enforcer,” he said. “I’m just going to try and help them run a healthy establishment.”
Mosbey said he will also be there for people who call with concerns of possible illnesses acquired from dining in Moffat County restaurants.
Before he was hired that resource was not available, he said.
“You eat out and you get sick who do you call?” Mosbey said. “That’s what we’re here for.”
When people call with concerns a questionnaire will be filled out, he said, and proper steps will be taken to address the caller’s concerns.
Just because someone calls in with a complaint does not mean Mosbey will go in and shut down a restaurant, he said.
“We’re looking for patterns,” he said. “We don’t just assume there’s a problem if we get a report.”
Sometime this year Mosbey said he hopes to start an education program for restaurant employees to become certified in their work.
He also wants to start a “gold medal” program in which restaurants with above average inspections receive an award for their performance.
The award can hang on the restaurant wall signifying the restaurant’s quality, he said.
“It’s a positive reinforcement rather than a negative one,” he said. “The gold medal program is a positive way to get compliance from local restaurants.”
All restaurant owners strive to run clean, healthy and safe businesses, and Mosbey said his job is to help those restaurants accomplish that.
“I don’t think you can find a restaurant owner who went into business to make people sick,” he said. “I think there’s a pretty strong motivation to keep good food handling in place.”
Restaurants have to be healthy establishments in order to survive, especially in a small community, he said.
“If you ever did get sick from a restaurant you wouldn’t eat there again and you would probably tell everybody you know about it,” he said.
Susan Bowler, public health nurse manager at the Visiting Nurse Association, said having a health inspector is vital.
One area where sickness can be avoided, is contracting it from food, she said.
“I think it’s important because it’s one of those things you can prevent,” she said.
Bowler also said that Mosbey’s job will be more far reaching than just inspecting.
“Pat will not only be doing inspections but education and training,” she said. “The turnaround in restaurants is high and a lot of these businesses don’t have time to train people in food handling.”
She said Mosbey will be a resource not only for the public, but also for local health officials.
“He’s gotten a lot of training and he will have the expertise in that area,” she said. “He’s who we’ll turn to when we have questions and concerns.”
Josh Nichols can be reached at 824-7031 or email@example.com.
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