Sacramento County's Retail Food Program Enhancements and Its Food Safety Rating and Disclosure System-2008 Crumbine Award Winner

By Enriquez, Alicia; Ruiz, Zarha C. et al. | Journal of Environmental Health, March 2009 | Go to article overview
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Sacramento County's Retail Food Program Enhancements and Its Food Safety Rating and Disclosure System-2008 Crumbine Award Winner


Enriquez, Alicia, Ruiz, Zarha C., Talusik, Jannine, Journal of Environmental Health


Introduction

Sacramento County is located in California's central valley, a vast agricultural region that extends nearly 1,000 miles. Sacramento is the California state capital, home to over 1.4 million people and host to over 6 million visitors per year. Sacramento County includes seven incorporated cities, a large unincorporated area, and nearly 7,000 retail food businesses. Sacramento County is governed by a five-member board of supervisors and has over 14,500 employees. Within the county, the Environmental Management Department (EMD) is responsible for providing mandated regulatory services in environmental health, hazardous materials, and water protection. The Environmental Health Division includes the Retail Food Protection Program, which is charged with ensuring that all retail food facilities are permitted and routinely inspected for compliance with the California Health and Safety Code. The overall goal is to ensure that food served to the public is stored, handled, prepared, and served in a pure and safe manner, thus reducing the occurrence of foodborne illness. Retail food facilities countywide, including restaurants, markets, schools, bakeries, bars, licensed health care facilities, certified farmers' markets, community events, and mobile food vendors are monitored by the division. In addition to conducting routine inspections to ensure compliance with state and local health and safety codes, environmental specialists also provide food safety education and investigate consumer complaints of foodborne illness and sanitation for retail food facilities.

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Additional consumer protection programs for Sacramento County include recreational health, plan review, tobacco licensing, childhood lead poisoning prevention, employee housing, detention facilities, and noise abatement.

In 2008, the total budget for the Retail Food Protection Program was just over $4 million. EMD receives no general fund monies and is fully funded through permit, reinspection, and consultation fees paid by the 7,000 permitted retail food businesses. In May 2007, a comprehensive five-year fee ordinance package was submitted to the county's board of supervisors to ensure full cost recovery for all program services. The fee ordinance package was approved and is effective until 2012.

Retail Food Program Enhancements

From 2002 to 2007, several multifaceted enhancements for its Retail Food Protection Program were initiated. These enhancements were developed in an effort to 1) improve food safety practices and awareness, 2) reduce foodborne illness, and 3) improve public disclosure methods of inspection results at retail food facilities. During this period, EMD focused primarily on reducing the occurrence of major violations in food facilities. Major violations are based on the risk factors identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as most likely to be associated with foodborne illness.

In 2002, EMD's Retail Food Protection Program received heightened attention from the media and the public, highlighting the need for more frequent food facility inspections, strengthened enforcement processes, and improved disclosure of inspection results. This attention provided the opportunity for EMD to collaborate with the retail food industry, the public, and local governing bodies to improve food safety and prevent foodborne illness in Sacramento County. As a result, in 2003, EMD launched into the development of several Retail Food Protection Program Enhancements--Phases I and II.

Phase I--2003-2005

Several key goals were established for the execution of Phase I enhancements.

* Public Disclosure of Inspection Results. Media attention and public comment revealed an interest in disclosure of inspection results. California state law already required facilities to post a sign stating that the last routine inspection was available and could be requested by a patron.

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