State gives food service program good marks

The Ohio Department of Health found no problems with the city health department’s food service program during a recent evaluation.

“That’s a very good report for the health department,” Mayor John Berlin said.

Berlin also serves as chairman of the city health board and made the comment during the meeting Wednesday when city Health Commissioner Richard Setty reported on the findings.

An ODH representative conducted the on-site survey of food service program operations in November and December, looking at every aspect of the work done by registered sanitarian Bill Hayward related to the food service program, which involves inspecting restaurants and other food service establishments to ensure consumer safety.

Information gathered was also reviewed by the ODH Food Safety staff which then compiled the report which was further reviewed by the Bureau of Environmental Health. The ODH found that the program met the required standards and the health department was approved as the licensor for the city health district.

Setty said the ODH sanitarian “did not find any major deficiencies.”

According to the report, there were no deficiencies. There were no checkmarks in the column titled “needs improvement” and no recommendations for any action plans for the compliance requirements. The staff also met the performance standards highlighted in the report.

As part of the survey, the ODH sanitarian accompanied Hayward on two inspections of restaurants in the city and complimented him for his professional manner, knowledge and inspection practices.

The evaluation said he “has a good idea of what food protection concepts are important. Despite its vast complexity, (he) demonstrated a good working knowledge of the food code. Inspections concentrate on food protection and education as well as overall maintenance issues.”

Board member Steve Faber, who serves as the city’s Parks Director headquartered at the Memorial Building, said he liked the comments made about Hayward being very clear when he explains things during an inspection, saying he can appreciate that from inspections done at the Memorial Building, which sometimes serves food during events.

Berlin and the board members offered congratulations to Hayward for the excellent job he’s doing. Setty said he was pleased with the outcome, saying Hayward has done a lot of hard work. Setty also works on the program sometimes, along with the registrar.

During the meeting, Setty reported what he called “a slight glitch” when letters sent to food service and retail food establishments for this year’s license reflected last year’s fees, which the board had voted to increase slightly for this year based on the latest cost methodology. He said the computer system apparently did not update the fees and the few letters checked before they were sent out appeared to have the correct fees, but they later learned the bulk of them were incorrect. The bills have since been resent with the new fees and Hayward is following up with some of the places that sent in their license fees with the incorrect amount.

When asked by Berlin how the error was caught, Setty said an operator called to check on the fee, questioning the amount. Berlin said he was glad someone noticed and called and it was corrected.

In other business, the board approved a resolution of support for efforts to restore the leadership of the National Association of Local Boards of Health and return the headquarters to Ohio. The board had tabled action on the resolution last month after members questioned whether it could put them on the hook to support the group financially over and above the normal yearly membership fee. The board previously had membership in the NALBOH until this year when no membership renewal was received allegedly due to some unrest in the organization.

Setty checked with city Law Director Brooke Zellers who compiled the resolution and noted the inclusion of a paragraph which states the board shall not be held accountable or liable for any financial obligation arising out of the efforts to restore the group. Setty said the resolution is primarily for moral support.

Berlin also asked about drug testing at the health department in response to a question raised at a city council meeting by Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, who asked whether the local health department could handle the drug testing when the city hires the new part-time police officers.

McKnight questioned whether it was a health department function, noting there would have to be training and protocols set up. Setty checked with Mahoning County and learned that department doesn’t offer drug testing services. He asked for time to do more research and check with the Columbiana County and East Liverpool health departments.

During the nursing report, Faber asked about the procedure for followup when there’s a suspected reportable disease reported to the health department. After some discussion the board advised a letter should be sent besides trying to call the person, if the testing comes out positive for the disease.

The next meeting will be 10 a.m. March 19 at the KSU City Center.