Last Modified: Monday, December 02, 2013 10:46 AM
The state agency responsible for ensuring food safety in Louisiana has taken steps to improve and intensify its inspection procedures.
The upgrades are in response to a critical audit of the Office of Public Health’s food inspection program that was made a year ago.
The Louisiana State Auditor’s report complained that the Public Health office, which is under the auspices of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, had been lax in issuing penalties for violations of food safety regulations.
The audit found that the Public Health office had issued only four compliance orders from 2009-2011, even though it had cited nearly 450,000 violations. The audit also found that although about one-third of the restaurants and businesses that were cited were repeat offenders, the Public Health office had ‘‘routinely’’ failed to assess any penalties or other consequences for repeat violators.
The criticism resulted in changes. DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert said it led to a complete reform of the Public Health office’s system.
Inspections increased by 60 percent and a better system for noting violations, compliance and corrective action was put in place.
In addition, the results of the inspections are being posted on DHH’s website, EatSafe.La.gov .
‘‘We have not just increased inspections, but the right kind of increased inspections,’’ said J.T. Lane, the head of the Office of Public Health. ‘‘We are getting to those that have a higher risk of potential food-borne illnesses.
All food establishments are inspected once a year. Those that deal with raw meat and fresh food and vegetables are being inspected four times a year, according to Lane.
Unsanitary procedures and conditions in food establishments can lead to serious illness and even occasional death from unsuspecting consumers.
Hence, inspection by state health sanitarians are necessary to ensure that restaurants and other food establishments are operating in a manner that does not bring misery to consumers. The increased vigilance and other improvements are vital to public confidence in the Office of Public Health to correct unsanitary conditions in restaurants and other food establishments.
This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Mike Jones, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.