HONOLULU (KHON2) — Food safety inspectors are trained to prevent food borne illnesses, now they have to make sure restaurants are also following the guidelines when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s an adjustment for us, we are really not experts in this field. also we recently got word that we’re going to be the one to enforce this so there’s also a lot of questions that my staff have,” said Oshiro.
“We’re particularly looking at things that will cause disease transmission, now we’re going to look at respiratory disease transmission,” said Peter Oshiro, Department of Health Food Safety branch manager.
In addition to checking for proper food temperatures and overall cleanliness, food safety inspectors will now check if restaurants are following the Hawaii Department of Health’s new guidelines, which include screening staff for illness before they start their shift and making sure tables are kept 6-feet apart or they’re separated by barriers. It also includes thorough disinfecting of tables and chairs and everything on the tables.
Parties will also be limited to six people max if they don’t live together, or ten people max if they come from the same household.
Oshiro said his staff will enforce the Department of Health’s guidelines for restaurants.
“The first round is not going to be any heavy regulatory actions. We’re not going to close anybody down for not following these things,” said Oshiro. “We’ll probably I.D. with the restaurants what shortcomings there [are] that are not consistent with the guidelines and we will talk with management about it.”
The restaurants won’t be the only ones learning as they go, Oshiro says he only has a few days to train his staff on what to look for.
“We’re going to have to create checklists and guidance and we’re going to have to basically standardize the staff in a few days on these issues,” said Oshiro.
However, he said the new additions to the inspections won’t affect the food safety placards given to restaurants.
“The Hawaii administrative rules have very specific requirements that what leads to a green, yellow, or red placard and the pandemic is not part of that right now,” said Oshiro.
However, he doesn’t rule out that there could be separate placards in the future.
“It’s something we might look to in the future, COVID-19 checks kind of idea,” said Oshiro.
Oshiro says they’re considering keeping restaurant opening inspections virtual since the new COVID-19 checks could add at least another hour to inspections. He said those details will be finalized before restaurants reopen next week.