The first purpose of this paper is to explain (using the given scenario) which of the following two approaches to enhance food safety would be more effective in the long run; a stronger enforcement program by the local health department or a mandatory food safety training requirement for all restaurants employees. In addition I will describe worker behaviors that may promote or compromise food safety. The scenario is there have been several complaints in your community about dirty restaurants. Several restaurants are no longer in business as a result of a television expose. You are the head of a citizen task force and have been asked to make recommendations for improved food safety. The members of the task force are at odds over which approach to food safety best serves the interests of the community.
The second purpose of this paper is to describe the recommendations that I would give (using the given scenario) the public to prevent further spread of the West Nile Virus by mosquitoes and describe the recommendations that I would give the community to control the mosquito population in the community. The scenario is, recently there have been numerous reports on increased mosquito bites in several neighborhoods in your community. Your staff has investigated these reports and has found them to be justified. In fact, there have been an increasing number of complaints that mosquitoes are preventing people from staying out in the early mornings and evenings. Additionally, the local health department has informed you that there has been an increase in reported cases of encephalitis and a few deaths related to West Nile Virus.
Enforcement programs have always been required to monitor the safety of the public as a whole and there are plenty of statistics that show an increase in compliance with established regulations as a result of enforcement. However, it is my recommendation to implement a mandatory food safety training requirement for all restaurant employees. Education is always comes before enforcement. If restaurant employees are not educated in the proper food handling, preparation, or even proper cleaning procedures in the kitchen and don’t understand why it is important to follow established protocols…then they are doomed to fail any type of standards enforcement inspections. Most public health departments have limited resources to perform inspections and therefore establishments may only get inspected one to six times per year depending on certain risk factors associated with the number and type of foods served. Even Texas state schools are only mandated to have inspections twice a year for their kitchens and staff. (DSHS 2007) According to Allison Knezevich, a reporter from the Charleston Gazette in West Virginia, who wrote recent article covering restaurant food safety, “A critical violation is an infraction that is capable of spreading foodborne illness such as chicken salad that are not kept cold enough, on ice or refrigerated or employees who don’t practice adequate hand hygiene.” She also stated, “Under the current rules, an establishment can have five uncorrectable critical violations before it is shut down.” (Knezevich 2008)
Worker behaviors may promote or compromise food safety. Why don’t food handlers wash their hands? Why are raw meats stored over ready-to-eat foods? Why isn’t that food stored at the required temperatures? These questions address just a couple of worker behaviors that compromise food safety. Why do workers do what they do? Often it is because of one’s opinion of the perception of the seriousness of the impact, one’s opinion of the tangible action or confidence in one’s ability to take action. Most workers will state that they didn’t realize the possible dangers or are a victim of the “it’s not my job” syndrome. The way to influence behaviors to a achieve an acceptable change is to, specify the consequences, increase awareness of a need for change, promote awareness and employ reminder systems, provide training and guidance in performing the action, use verbal reinforcement, and demonstrate desired behaviors. (Jenkins-McLean, 2004) How does this get accomplished? Demonstrate proper handwashing, use examples of restaurant foodborne outbreaks, involve the staff in mock inspections, and possibly have weekly meetings to re-emphasize key food protection points. When this occurs you will have a restaurant staff that not only exhibits proper worker behavior, but also understands why.
Food safety is an extremely important issue and food preparation is even more complex than ever. We don’t just eat meat and potatoes anymore. Today we are eating more poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables. While this is conducive to a healthier lifestyle it presents greater challenges when it comes to food safety. Mandating educational programs and professional training for restaurant employees is the best way to limit the spread of foodborne illness and will ultimately enhance food safety practices. This in turn will be reflected in a reduction of reportable public health illnesses that occur as a result of improper food preparation or handling and be evident during future enforcement inspections.
What are vectors? Vectors are insects and rodents that are capable of transmitting an infectious agent by biting, stinging, or depositing the agent either directly on the host or on some object that will come in contact with the host. In some cases, a vector acts as an intermediate host, and other times the vector is simply contaminated.
The first thing that I would do is contact the Center of Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While the local health is involved, the CDC and the EPA have greater resources to provide and may be able to assist in providing recommendations. The EPA website states, “The CDC, works closely with state and local health departments and provides public information and develops national strategies to reduce the risk of disease transmission.” The EPA also states, “The EPA (EPA, 2007) The increased mosquito population in the community represents a serious risk as evident by the deaths related to West Nile Virus. In an effort to control and combat the mosquito population I would contact my local vector control agency and give the following recommendations to the community such as: making sure to limit the amount of free standing water around living areas, treat swimming pools and make sure they are continuously circulating, keep rain gutters on homes unclogged, and keep screen doors closed tight. Next I would establish a community outreach program to educate users on the proper use of insect repellents and have repellents available at no cost to lower income communities to increase compliance.
The West Nile Virus is a mosquito-borne disease. People get infected with the virus when they are bitten by an infected mosquito. The mosquitoes become infected with the virus when they feed on infected birds. The infected mosquitoes can spread the virus to humans and animals that they bite. It is important to know that the virus is not spread through the air or by contact. However, there is a “very” small risk of acquiring the virus through transfusion, transplants or breastfeeding.
In an effort to prevent the spread of West Nile, I would recommend to the community to use the same mosquito control measures to reduce the risk of being bit by mosquitoes. In addition, I would inform the community to be on the lookout for dead birds and tree squirrels and report them to local public health departments. This can indicate the presence of the virus and the health departments will want to test the dead animal for the virus. This allows the public health department to use the information for surveillance purposes.
Mosquitoes have always been known for their ability to transmit disease to the public. When people think of mosquito bites, they usually just think of the annoyance of scratching the bite area. However, with natural disasters happening more frequently, especially with all of the mid-west flooding, mosquitoes may become a bigger nuisance to the American public.
Jenkins-McLean, T., Skilton, C., Sellers, C. (2004). Engaging Food Service Workers in Behavioral-Change Partnerships. Retrieved on July 30, 2008 from http://www.metrokc.gov/health/env_hlth/behavior-change-food.pdf
California West Nile Virus Website (2008). West Nile Basics. Retrieved on July 30, 2008 from http://westnile.ca.gov/wnv_faqs_basics.php
Department of Health & Human Services (1999) Administration Statement on Duplication in Food Safety on Behalf of The President’s Council on Food Safety. Retrieved on July 30, 2008 from http://www.hhs.gov/asl/testify/t990804c.html
Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), (2007). School Safety: Changes in the law Creating a Requirement for Two Annual Inspections. Retrieved on July 30, 2008 from http://www.dshs.state.tx.us/schoolsafety/food.shtm
United States Environmental Protection Agency (2007). Mosquito Control. Retrieved on July 30, 2008 from http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/health/mosquitoes/