Plan Ahead with a Food Service Emergency Operations Plan!

We recently had a Boil Water Advisory that affected a significant number of homes and businesses over a large portion of Cobb County.  Once it was announced, several food service establishment owners and operators began inquiring as to how long it would take the Center for Environmental Health to review their proposed emergency water supply plan so they could keep stay open for business.   Unfortunately, by the time we were contacted, it was already too late for a review.

The Rules and Regulations for Food Service allow for a food service establishment to operate for up to two hours after a water service interruption; however, to continue operating beyond that limit, the food service establishment must have a pre-approved emergency water supply plan in place prior to the water interruption event.  As you can probably guess, planning for a water service interruption during the actual interruption will not help you stay open beyond that initial two hours, but careful planning now can help position you to effectively deal with your next emergency event.

If you would like to develop your own Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), a great place to start is the Emergency Action Plan guide  produced by the Conference for Food Protection.  This excellent resource can be used to develop a plan to cover water service interruptions, sewage backups, fires, floods, and power outages.  Once you’ve developed your own plan, submit it to your local Environmental Health office for review and approval.

Cobb & Douglas Public Health encourages food service owners and operators to start developing  their EOPs today.  In the event of an actual emergency, an approved EOP can not only help you operate safely, but can reduce down time and save a facility money in the long run.

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Boiled Water Advisory in Effect for Parts of Cobb County

The Cobb County Water System has issued a Boiled Water Advisory for Cobb County residents and businesses that are south of Windy Hill and Macland Roads.  Guidance for food service operators is available on our website.  For updates on the status of the boil water advisory, please visit the Cobb County Government or Cobb County Water System websites

CDC Tips for Safe Outdoor Cooking!

Outdoor grilling season is upon us, and it’s important to remember that the shift of food preparation outdoors comes with its own unique challenges.  The CDC’s Get Ready to Grill Safely poster serves as an effective food safety reminder for outdoor cooks as they prepare for their outdoor food festivities.  You don’t want to give E.coli, Salmonella, and their other pathogenic friends an opportunity to spoil the party!

Food Allergen Awareness Month Is Here!

May is Food Allergen Awareness month.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in thirteen children and one in twenty-five adults have food allergies.  This means that  the possibility of a customer in a food service facility having a food allergy is great.  In some cases, just a small amount of an allergen can cause serious harm—and in some cases death–to persons that are allergic.

Georgia’s Rules and Regulations for Food Service require that the person in charge of food service facilities train their staff in regard to allergen awareness based on their respective job duties.  The CDC’s  3 Resources About Food Allergies provides information to assist with your allergen training such as this poster entitled “Food Allergies: What you need to know” .

If additional assistance is needed in this area, please contact your local health authority.

Alert Regarding Hepatitis A

There has been a recent increase in the number of Hepatitis A (HAV) cases reported in the state of Georgia.  HAV is a highly contagious disease that affects the liver, and a person may have HAV several days before showing  any signs and symptoms.  Food service operators are asked to please ensure good hygienic practices are adhered to and that all workers are aware of employee health reporting requirements.   

The Hepatitis A fact sheet prepared by the Georgia Department of Public Health provides a good summary that may be utilized in food service establishments to assist with the education of staff members and to assist in monitoring.

The Importance of Environmental Health to Public Health

Before National Public Health Week comes to a close, we’d like to highlight how Environmental Health works along with Epidemiology and the Laboratory (as well as other agencies when warranted) to help in the area of disease prevention and control.  Environmental Health is involved with assessments of food service facilities, onsite waste systems, tourist accommodations, swimming pools, nuisance complaints and so much more, in addition to the investigation of reports of diseases connected to these regulated areas. The CDC’s video entitled Why Are Environmental Health Services So Important?  does a great job of illustrating our program’s role in protecting public health. 

Thank you for your support!   

~ Karen Gulley, MPH, Food Program Manager

ANOTHER BLOG ENTRY ON ICE MACHINES?……YES!

by Casey Saenz, Environmental Health Specialist 3

I was conducting a routine inspection at a bar in my area this week, and I had to do a double take when I glanced inside this facility’s ice machine.  The gallery above will give you a good idea of what I saw!

There are a couple of colors that I have never seen before in an ice machine.  Just to give a quick summary:  “Yikes!”  Those are some scary pictures. 

Please be sure to check the inside and outside of your ice machine on a routine basis.  I check the ice machine during inspections by using the camera on my phone.  I push the reverse symbol to flip the view and put the camera towards the top of the inside (avoiding contact with ice).  Sometimes, I have to scoop out some of the ice to get enough clearance to view the top of the machine’s interior.

If you see that your ice machine needs cleaning, be sure to drain it, take it apart, and clean it as applicable.  It’s always best to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your ice machine.  If you can’t find the manufacturer’s instructions, they are most likely free online if you do a Google search using the make and/or model of the machine.  There are also ice machine cleaning companies that will do this for you. 

This was a violation under 4-2B, Food Contact Surfaces and Utensils – Cleaning Frequency.  Per Cobb County Code: Equipment food-contact surfaces and utensils shall be cleaned: In equipment such as ice bins and beverage dispensing nozzles and enclosed components of equipment such as ice makers, cooking oil storage tanks and distribution lines, beverage and syrup dispensing lines or tubes, coffee bean grinders, and water vending equipment:

(I) At a frequency specified by the manufacturer; or

(II) Absent manufacturer specifications, at a frequency necessary to preclude accumulation of soil or mold.

I am glad that I was able to catch this because now it has been brought to the manager’s attention and, hopefully, has prevented illness from occurring.