County of Santa Clara-2003 Crumbine Award Winner

By Everly, Vicki | Journal of Environmental Health, January-February 2004 | Go to article overview

County of Santa Clara-2003 Crumbine Award Winner


Everly, Vicki, Journal of Environmental Health


Editor's Note: The Samuel J. Crumbine Consumer Protection Award for Excellence in Food Protection, named in honor of one of the most renowned public health sanitarians in the United States, is presented to a local public health agency by a jury of leading environmental health officials and public health sanitarians. The Crumbine Award is the most prestigious recognition that a public health agency can receive for excellence and improvement in food protection. Agencies that win the Crumbine serve as models for other public health and safety programs across the nation.

Below, readers will find a description of the program that won the 2003 award--the food safety program of the Santa Clara County, California, Department of Environmental Health. The description is adapted from information the program submitted on its Crumbine application.

For more information about the Crumbine Award, please contact Lynn Rosseth, director of market development and programs at the Foodservice & Packaging Institute (FPI) at (703) 338-2800, A copy of Santa Clara's entire award-winning application is on the FPI Web site at www.fpi.org.

Introduction

In 1997, the Consumer Protection Division (CPD) of the County of Santa Clara Department of Environmental Health began a longterm project to examine and improve our food safety program. Our approach to change looked to our community and our efforts in outreach and education. We looked at strengthening partnerships with allied agencies and organizations. And, we looked inward at previous accomplishments and available resources.

With a food program staff of more than 60, effecting change in a collaborative and inclusive format is a daunting challenge. Our achievements were acknowledged in 2003 with the Crumbine Award for excellence in food protection.

Demographics

CPD provides educational, consultative, inspection, plan-review, and permitting services in a number of programs, including retail food, public bathing places, drinking water, onsite sewerage, noise control, disaster preparedness, housing, and environmental lead contamination. The single largest program within CPD is food safety, with more than 8,500 facilities under permit.

Situated at the southern tip of San Francisco Bay, Santa Clara Country, until the late-1970s, was dotted with quiet suburban communities and mile after mile of orchards and farmland. Today, we live in a sprawling urban area known the world over as Silicon Valley.

Santa Clara County has 15 incorporated cities and a number of smaller, unincorporated communities. The total county population is 1.7 million, with more than one million residing in San Jose, our largest city.

Housing costs are a major issue, with typical 40-year old tract houses selling for close to a million dollars. Santa Clara County is one of the most culturally diverse areas in the world. Thirty-four percent of our population is foreign-born, and more than 45 percent speak a language other than English at home. Our predominant ethnic groups are Asian (25.6 percent) and Hispanic (24 percent)--significant statistics compared with the national average of 3.6 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively.

With our diversity came a dramatic shift in foods prepared and sold to consumers. In the late 1980s, CPD began to examine foods from both cultural and microbiological perspectives and learned that the key to successful communication between cultures was accepting and understanding each other's perspectives.

Today, a registered environmental health specialist (R.E.H.S.) must learn to deal effectively with cultures and customs "foreign" to "American" customs. Our philosophy: They learn from us while we learn from them. We ask our staff: "Think about your behavior; not just theirs. You are the one entering their establishment. You are the one initiating the inspection. They are going to respond to your behavior. …

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