Hawaii’s hepatitis A outbreak increased awareness about food safety when eating out.

Now, we’re learning new rules are in the works with an emphasis on education and prevention.

The state Department of Health is working on stricter regulations for all eateries statewide to prevent foodborne illnesses. KHON2 was the only one there when the rules were given preliminary approval at a hearing Wednesday afternoon.

Many of the bigger restaurants are already complying with the added regulations, but this would be new for many small mom-and-pop eateries and even food trucks.

Restaurant managers and chefs are already required to know the proper temperatures for serving and storing food in order to get a green placard from the health department. They’re also supposed to be well-versed in proper hand washing techniques.

The health department would like to take it a step further and require at least one person who’s in charge of the restaurant when it’s open to be certified in a food safety course.

“We’ve come across many that are so busy doing their own job that they didn’t realize that they’re supposed to be, surprising as it may seem, washing their hands as often as we’d like them to, cooking it to a certain temperature. They don’t understand the why,” explained Lance Wong, sanitation branch supervisor with the state Department of Health.

Read the proposed rules in their entirety (.pdf):Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

The health department received initial approval from the Small Business Regulatory Review Board and the next step is to have a public hearing.

The food safety certification is offered to food handlers and managers. DOH offers the two-hour course for free. Private companies also offer it online for about $10-$15 per person.

Chef and Tango Contemporary Cafe owner Goran Streng says he would certify all his employees just to be on the safe side. “Any reiteration of the importance of sanitation and the temperatures, it’s always good. It’s always going to bring awareness to your staff, to yourself to pay attention to those things,” Streng said.

For some, the new rules can be a bit of overkill, especially for food truck operators, because there’s always somebody in the truck who knows all the food safety regulations.

“Especially if you’re the owner of the food truck and the chef and you’re always here, time is money,” said Ryoji Soranaka of Aloha Plate food truck. “So to actually go out and kill one day, two-hour class or whatever, that’s one business day down.”

But other food truck owners tell us it’s good overall, and it will boost the confidence of customers about going out to eat, especially after the recent hepatitis A outbreak.

Gregg Fraser, Hawaii Restaurant Association executive director, says he’s also in favor of the new regulations.

The health department says the plan is to schedule a public hearing within a month. If all goes well, the new rules will start in January.

There will be a one-year grace period to educate business owners.