Changes in health-inspection policies win restaurateur’s nod

By Chelsea Martin

Area restaurant owners are
voicing positive feedback to
newly adopted updates to
restaurant inspection rules that have
been in the works since 2011.
The Maricopa County Board
of Supervisors has revamped the
inspection programs to include
what county officials say is a more
consistent, efficient and consumerfriendly
process.
The 20 recommendations
provided by a stakeholder task force
were aimed at expanding the so-called
Cutting Edge program, which helps
owners gain more “active management
control” in their establishments. It
also creates a preventive rather than
reactive approach to food safety, they
say.
Through this approach, inspectors
are said to be able to focus on
establishments that might pose greater
health risks and to provide appropriate
materials for the high-performers to
maintain their compliance.
The county Environmental
Services Department also will stop
posting inspection records online
immediately, instead putting them up
three business days later.
The change allows permit holders
time to clarify or challenge items in the
inspection report.
“The biggest thing is that they
have geared their programs toward a
more educated approach,” said Amy
Mills Scheufler, one of three owners of
Duke’s Tavern on Ray Road just east of
Rural.
“They just want to make sure
everyone is following through in order
to eliminate any food-borne illness
because there are so many violations
that could happen when you’re dealing
with food. It’s a huge responsibility.”
Restaurant owners in the program
are able to develop their own plans,
subject to county approval.
Every other inspection is a
verification visit in which the inspector
makes sure the restaurant is following
its own set of inspection guidelines.
Scheufler, who has spent 25 years
in the restaurant industry, agrees
that the new programs align well with
internal inspections and daily “linechecks”
that most restaurant owners
are accustomed to.
Food quality and safety are the
main areas that restaurant owners and
inspectors focus on, Scheufler says.
“This new program will allow
inspectors to concentrate more on the
people who have a violation in order
to teach them exactly how to fix it, not
just tell them to do it,” Scheufler said.
“At first (employees) can’t
comprehend the dangers or risks
involved.”
Thus, education becomes a key
component in the preventive actions,
Scheufler says.
“A food-borne illness can break
your business.
“In the long run it’s best to use
education to combat it.”

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