Health department conducts first virtual health inspection

Coronavirus

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Since the stay at home order, many things have moved to the virtual realm, and now this includes food safety.

The Department of Health stopped restaurant inspections after the stay at home order was announced, but thanks to technology, inspectors are back on the job.

Tuesday morning, the health department’s food safety branch conducted its first virtual restaurant inspection at Raising Canes’ new Hawaii Kai location.

“We make the restaurant owner, the operator, walk through the whole facility and basically show us everything… floors, walls, [and] ceilings, basically what the condition of everything is. So it’s as if we’re right there,” said Peter Oshiro, Department of Health food safety branch manager.

Everything from refrigeration and water temperatures to hand washing processes are looked at.

“Everything that we need to during a regular [pre-operation] inspection we’ve done during the virtual inspection,” said Oshiro. “We have not cut any corners. we have not made it any easier for a facility to pass.’

The requirements to undergo an inspection like this are pretty simple. Oshiro said all rstaurants need is a good IT connection and the ability to connect virtually.

However, the new system has its limits. Right now, it’s only being used to look over new restaurants, not to do routine inspections.

“When the inspector walks into the facility, he’s also observing all that the people are doing there …so what the employees, the ones that are preparing food, the ones that are serving food… at a glance he has to be able to see how their operations are working,” said Oshiro.

Oshiro said many businesses were getting ready to open around the shut down, but were unable to. He said this gives them a new opportunity.

“We have a lot of people who are suffering financially because of this. We thought if we were able to get them running, then why not go ahead and do so?,” said Oshiro.

Oshiro said other restaurants are now calling for a pre-opening inspection. He said they have about six restaurants lined up for inspection in the next three to four days.

Raising Canes’ Hawaii Kai branch is now allowed to do drive-thru business.

An in-person, follow-up inspection will still need to be done within 30 days after the governor lifts the emergency proclamation.

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