Tuesday, October 17, 2017

New Website!!

Hey all- we've just launched a brand new website for Jefferson County Public Health, check it out here: www.jeffco.us/public-health

Reflections on National Food Safety Month

Food Safety at Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH)
With National Food Safety Month coming to an end in September, we reflect on the roles JCPH and other public health departments across the United States play to help improve health outcomes, including food safety. In Jefferson County, our Environmental Health Specialists inspect more than 2,000 retail food establishments each year to ensure the food being processed and served is safe for you and your family. In addition to the regulatory piece of our work, we see our role as educators first and foremost. We serve as a go-to resource for operators and community members alike.

But why does public health focus on food safety in the first place? The number one goal of our retail food inspection program is to reduce foodborne illness in the community. This goal drives all our regulation, inspection and education efforts. For instance, we regularly provide local, timely information and data about how and why foodborne illnesses occur. For some people, foodborne illness may be just 24 hours of diarrhea, vomiting and discomfort, but for others who are immune compromised — young, elderly or pregnant individuals — foodborne illness can be a much larger risk to health.

Unpacking the Data
This infographic summarizes the foodborne illness complaints received and investigated in Jefferson County during 2016. Last year, we received 209 complaints, a 67 percent increase from 2015. (This may be because food safety and restaurant outbreaks were very prevalent in the news during that time, allowing consumers to wonder more about their own exposures and the handling of their food).

When complaints are received in our office, we quickly gather information on where and when the affected person ate, when they became ill, what their symptoms were and any other exposures. We also capture a 72-hour food history in conjunction with what they ate at the establishment in question to see if any other regulated facilities could have been an exposure or cause of the illness. See the infographic for the five top reported foods in Jefferson County.

Moving down the infographic, the top preparation processes reported section outlines the preparation types conducted at the establishment for the reported food. This information — among several other items — are captured when the Environmental Health Specialist either reaches out to the establishment’s manager/owner for an interview, or the complaint triggers an onsite investigation where in-person interviews and observations are made. During these onsite investigations, we look for possible contributing factors, such as items that are known to cause foodborne illness. For a foodborne illness to occur, three factors — a contamination factor, amplification (or growth) factor and a survival factor — are present, allowing pathogens to find their way into food and grow. Most of the time, it is challenging to find all three, but we will piece together the puzzle by identifying at least one or two of these factors. The graphs in the infographic represent the top factors that were noted during investigations for 2016.

Lastly, we investigated 30 confirmed foodborne illnesses that indicated a retail food exposure, a 30 percent increase from 2015. A confirmed foodborne illness is when a person — when ill with symptoms consistent with a foodborne illness — goes to the doctor and submits a sample, usually a stool sample, to be tested for foodborne illness pathogens. After these are tested at a laboratory, the results are sent to the medical provider. If the results say they are positive for a foodborne illness, those results are sent to their provider and are also reported to the state public health department. In Colorado, certain infectious diseases must be reported by law to investigate and protect public health and transmission. Once these are received by the state health department, local health departments are notified of these confirmed cases and the person is interviewed to assess what their exposures could have been to lead to the illness. If the person ate at a retail food establishment within their incubation period (the time from when they got sick to when they had a certain exposure) an onsite investigation occurs.

Always Learning: Ongoing Training and Technical Assistance
Many times, it is very difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of a foodborne illness. In the Environmental Health Epidemiology program, we provide technical assistance and training to our colleagues to develop our observational and interviewing skills to assist with investigations. We also analyze our data along with state and national level data to identify trends and plan for interventions for commonly identified contributing factors. This all works together to achieve our main goal of reducing foodborne illness in our community.

For more information on foodborne illness and their pathogens, please visit the CDC webpage at https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/foodborne-germs.html

Are you a restaurant owner or operator looking for food safety classes for your employees? Do you want to look up inspection reports for your favorite restaurant?  Visit our website here for information on online training, our Team Up for Food Safety recognition program, retail food inspections and all things Food Safety in Jefferson County.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

News from the State!
Here is some news we received from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Remember — all Jefferson County inspectors will carry identification and should show it to operators at the time of your inspection.  There will also never be a charge to your establishment for routine inspections.

 Attention: Scam Alert

It has been brought to our attention a scam that has been focused toward our restaurant industry. We wanted to pass along the information to ensure that you don't get ripped off! 
 An owner of a restaurant reported that they were contacted via phone by someone that was representing themselves as a "state inspector.” The following is the message/formal posting from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on the topic.    
SCAM ALERT: Some restaurant owners have reported receiving a call from someone claiming to be an inspector. The caller said an inspection needed to be scheduled, and asked for a credit card payment to secure it. That's not us, folks. We do not charge for routine inspections. If you get a similar call, please report it to (303)-692-3645 ext. #1. All State and Local inspectors carry employee identification. If you ever want to verify if someone is a health inspector, call (303)-692-3645 ext. #1.

Food Waste

The USDA estimates that Food Waste in the United States accounts for 31 percent of all waste that ends up in landfills. That is equal to roughly 133 billion pounds of food. The breakdown of this food waste creates a greenhouse gas known as methane. When methane is released it traps up to 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide and has major impacts on climate change. Retail food establishments can cut down on food waste by maintaining a strict inventory, regular maintenance of food storage equipment and monitoring the temperatures of potentially hazardous food
products to ensure cold food is at or below 41°F and hot food stays at or above 135°F which will prevent perfectly good food from having to be thrown away. By keeping food out of the danger zone, we can keep it out of landfills. Many retailers and food manufacturers are teaming up to help cut food waste by 50 percent by the year 2030 and it is possible that you can join the fight and become a U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champion. Join the fight
click here

Dog Days of Summer
Although Summer is “over,” here in Colorado the weather can be even better in the Fall and Coloradans LOVE their outdoor activities!  Many of us consider our animals to be a part of the family, but please remember that only service animals are allowed in retail food establishments, this includes the patio area.  Check out the below from the Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations for some easy guidance on animals in restaurants and grocery stores:
  • ·         A service animal is any dog or miniature horse that is trained to work or perform a task for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability.
  • ·         The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the handler’s disability.
  • ·         The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort or companionship DO NOT constitute work or tasks.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Beat That Summer Heat

We have officially entered the “dog days” of summer. With that come cooler nights, preseason football and those all-important end of summer activities.  Even though the average temperature is dropping and the rains have returned, it’s important to remember that we are not out of the woods yet.  There are still plenty of hot days left in the year and there is still a pressing need to focus on “cold holding”!

Of course, that is not what I mean by cold holding.  Cold holding refers to keeping foods that are time and temperature controlled for safety purposes below the temperature danger zone.  Food that is protected by proper cold holding should always have an internal temperature of 41°F (5°C) or below.  Throughout the year, cold hold violations are the most common violation that is observed by the retail food inspectors at Jefferson County Public Health.  Most of these violations can be avoided by taking the preventive measures mentioned below:

1. Temperature logs

Keeping logs of the temperature controlled food items in a retail food establishment can be highly beneficial for 2 main reasons.  First, having firsthand knowledge of the efficiency at which each refrigerator is operating can give a strong indication of when routine maintenance is required.  Additionally, keeping track of these temperatures can also serve the function of identifying how long the temperature controlled foods within a refrigerator have been in the temperature danger zone.  The “danger zone” is the temperature range that food-borne bacteria love and they can rapidly grow.  Knowing how long a temperature controlled for safety food has been off temperature is helpful when determining corrective actions.

2. Corrective Actions

Foods that are temperature controlled for safety should not be in the danger zone for longer than four hours.  If foods are found to be off temperature for less than four hours, they must be cooled down quickly.  Ice can be added into or around a food item to cool it quickly, or if foods are in a commercial reach-in cooler, they should be moved to the walk-in refrigerator.  It is good to remember that reach-in coolers are designed to hold foods that are already 41°F or below. They are not designed to adequately cool foods down.      

3.       Speaking of ice…

Ice can be used to temporarily control the temperature of food; however, it must be used properly. Although it looks pretty, the ice used in the picture to the right is only providing temperature control for the food on the very bottom of the dish. The food at the top would have an elevated internal temperature. When used appropriately, the ice should be in contact with as much of the food as possible. The picture below is a better example of ice used as temperature control. 

Below is a great example from a food establishment that had to come up with a back-up plan when the salad bar went down. This is Active Managerial Control at work!  Taking action to control foodborne illness risk factors.  Thank you to Lana of Sava Catering for allowing us to share her post.

      4. Routine Maintenance

Our final advice on maintaining proper cold holding temperatures is to keep up with routine maintenance of equipment.  Mechanical refrigeration (much like any machine) requires maintenance at a frequency that depends on its use. The more it gets used, the more maintenance it will likely need. This maintenance can include more involved processes such as compressor service, but can also include more simple tasks such as gasket replacement and cleaning. No matter the level of level of complexity, routine maintenance can help get the most out of commercial equipment. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

If you are reading this, congratulations! You have made it through another long winter and are primed and ready for backyard BBQ season. 

Close your eyes for a moment and think of the best times at barbecues - when family and friends gather around great food and beautiful weather.  We at Jefferson County Public Health are as excited as you for summer and want to wish you the best – and safest – one possible! Let’s take a moment to review the essentials of safe food handling:

1.)    Hygienic practices:

This topic should go without saying, but one of the most important things you can do is to ensure each step of your food preparation is done in a hygienic way. This includes limiting bare hand contact with foods ready for consumption, proper handwashing whenever contamination may have occurred and restricting the use of a common towel to wipe hands and surfaces.  

2.)    Contaminated equipment:

A commonly overlooked issue is the use of contaminated equipment for ready-to-eat foods. If a piece of equipment or a surface becomes contaminated with raw meat, do not place ready-to-eat foods on that surface until it has been properly washed and sanitized. This also includes restricting the use of a marinade that may be contaminated with raw meat as a final dipping sauce.

3.)    Proper cooking temperatures:

Don’t forget to keep a probe thermometer handy to check the final cooking temperatures of your food. The chart below represents safe cooking temperatures that will ensure your food is safe to consume. Are you curious about how to make sure your thermometer is telling the truth? Simply place your thermometer in a glass of ice water that has mostly ice and only enough water to fill the air gaps in between the ice cubes. Your thermometer should read 32°F - if it does not, it’s time to get a new thermometer.

Safe Cooking Temperatures

4.)    Proper storage and holding temperatures:

Just as important as final cooking temperatures is safe storage and holding temperatures. Be honest with yourself - do you have a thermometer in your fridge? This low-cost device could be the difference between staying safe or getting sick with a foodborne illness. Refrigerated foods held at temperatures above 41°F for extended periods of time can allow the growth of the bacteria that make you sick. If you are going to be keeping foods out for an extended time, make sure to keep cold foods below 41°F with the use of an ice bath or keep foods above 135°F with the use of a crock pot or steam table.    

5.)    Verify your food source: 

Is that great priced steak you just bought off the shady van driving around the neighborhood really safe to consume? Did that meat go through proper USDA inspection programs? Had that meat been slaughtered in a safe and sanitary way? What temperature has that meat maintained during storage and transportation? Purchasing food from reputable sources will give you piece of mind that your food has been handled properly.

Always keep these 5 safe food handling tips in mind for a great (and healthy!) summer!!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Looking for Food Safety Training?  Upcoming Retail Food Requirement!

One of the major differences between the current Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations and the 2013 FDA Food Code is the requirement to have a Certified Food Protection Manager on staff.  While not required in all establishments, the majority of Retail Food Establishments will have to meet this new requirement.  According to the 2013 FDA Food Code, at least one employee that holds supervisory responsibility over food preparation practices must be a Certified Food Protection Manager who has demonstrated knowledge by passing a test as part of an accredited program.  To read about accredited food protection manager certification programs and to find a link to a directory of currently accredited programs, visit the ANSI webpage below:
If your management team does not currently have certification from an accredited program or if you have questions regarding your certifications, please reach out to your routine health inspector for more information.  There may be an extended implementation date to allow for retail food establishments to comply with this requirement once the regulation transition takes effect, but we want to update you on this new requirement as soon as possible.

Jefferson County Public Health provides basic food safety training through our “Excellence in Food Safety” class.   While it is a great class for food handlers, it does not meet the requirement of an accredited Certified Food Protection Manager program.  

News from the State!

Regulation Revision

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) recently began the process of revising the Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations. The department has made the determination to incorporate the 2013 FDA Food Code as the new Colorado Retail Food Regulations. Adoption of the FDA code allows us:
  • To repair broken connections to Food and Drug Administration resources/guidance that are readily available in eight languages for both Local Public Health Agencies and industry, and;
  • Aligns Colorado's Retail Food program with all other state programs that use the national standard and provides greater access to comprehensive data to assess program activities and effectiveness.
This revision process includes a stakeholder process that is essential to identify regulation differences, determine training needs of industry and regulatory staff, update data systems and understand implementation logistics and needs.  Adopting the FDA Food Code allows the State to focus resources on implementation needs versus spending an extensive amount of time to modify the Colorado Regulation.

As the program moves through the stakeholder process, information and resources will be made available through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment website at:

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Chew On This….Food Safety for Thought!

Chew On This….Food Safety for Thought!

Hello and welcome to the first edition of, “Chew On This….Food Safety for Thought!,” the Jefferson County Public Health Food Safety Blog!  We would like to start off by thanking you for taking the time to read our blog, we hope that you find our posts to be beneficial and relevant to your daily lives.  We plan to post monthly updates on food safety news, hot topics in food safety, as well as features from our audience.  Our goal is to enhance communication with food service professionals and consumers about food safety topics to develop creative approaches to reduce foodborne illness.

This month we want to introduce you to the Environmental Health team that performs inspections on all of Jefferson County’s Retail Food Establishments and the work that they do.  There are about twenty employees within Jefferson County Public Health that either work directly or indirectly with our licensed retail food establishments (over 2,100 establishments!!).  These individuals have the responsibility to effectively interpret and enforce regulations that are designed to reduce food safety hazards in Jefferson County.  The job is challenging, requiring an inspector to have in depth knowledge of food preparation processes and regulations, along with possessing interpersonal skills to build rapport with food service operators.

Check out one of our Environmental Health Specialists, Urszula Tyl, in action!

When asked what food safety means to them, some of our team had this to say:

Food safety is important to me because food is one of the few substances that goes into our body.  If not handled safely, that otherwise healthy food can make you sick.  We all have to eat, but we all don’t have to be sick.”  - Carla Opp, Workforce Development and Quality Improvement Coordinator

Food safety is a collaboration between inspectors and food operators to achieve the same goal of providing food that is safe for consumption by the public.  Our goal is the same --  that we do not want to make people ill -- and we can accomplish this task together in many different ways that makes the most sense for the individual food operation.” - Tracy Volkman, Registered Environmental Health Specialist

Our job is one where we protect people from “behind the scenes,” because safe food is one of the things people take for granted. Through food safety, we educate and protect people (and ourselves) from foodborne illnesses. Through education, we empower people to protect themselves and others.”   -Vi Nguyen, Environmental Health Specialist

I feel proud to protect the health of the public through our programs, and even though most of our work is ‘behind the scenes,’ it is still a rewarding job.” - Lisa LaCasse, Environmental Health Specialist

This job provides the opportunity to build relationships with all types of individuals in retail food establishments who have a direct impact on food safety including food borne illness. I enjoy being able to be a resource for all types of different establishments in order to protect the community when they dine at their favorite establishment.” – Atisha Morrison, Environmental Health Specialist

We are excited about this blog endeavor and being able to communicate in a new way with you.  We feel as passionate about food safety as you do, and we look forward to hearing from you and featuring your thoughts in upcoming blogs.  Stay tuned for more information and things to come!

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