The Kern County Public Health Services Department, Environmental Health Division, has been enrolled in the Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards since 2005. The proposed scope of work will further develop the detailed competencies the agency needs to achieve conformance with the Retail Food Program Standards. The Department will develop a strong foodborne illness component. This component will address tracking of foodborne illness complaints and investigations; enhance the existing foodborne illness response team; increase the accessibility for reporting by the general public; and enable the Department to conduct trend analysis. The Department will standardize staff to the inspection criteria of the Federal Food Code. This will enhance the consistency of food facility inspections; and increase the knowledge base of staff so that inspections will focus on foodborne illness risk factors and intervention strategies. The current inspection hardware will be replaced to allow more accurate reporting of observations during inspections. The Department will conduct a risk assessment study of proper hand washing technique, employee health and the appropriate use of gloves. The final results of this study will be used to determine if there is a new intervention strategy that can be analyzed and implemented. Any new intervention strategies will be added to the current inspection format. The Department will provide training to staff and food retailers on how to implement the intervention strategies and will provide further training on overall safe food handling. The Department will develop a gold seal certification program for food retailers that attend the training in person or complete the computer module, signifying they have taken an extra step towards implementing safe food handling practices. An ill food handler may be a contributory factor in a foodborne illness outbreak. To assist with investigations the Department will purchase stool specimen collection kits. During foodborne illness investigations food handlers will be asked to voluntarily provide stool samples to be tested by the Department laboratory. The goal of this work is to enhance investigation of foodborne illness outbreaks; determine if new intervention strategies are needed; and apply these intervention strategies to reduce the risk factors that contribute to foodborne illness. Through this strategic plan, the Department will meet Standards 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, and 9.
The Kern County Public Health Services Department, Environmental Health Division proposed grant application will directly benefit the health of the general public. The Department will conduct the following: 1) build the capacity of staff and food retailers on overall safe food handling, standardize inspections and investigations, and implement new intervention strategies to reduce the risk associated with foodborne illness; and 2) increase the accessibility for reporting by the general public.