Proposed Bill Would Relax Restaurant Safety Requirements

Greensboro, NC -- At a restaurant, there are a few things you probably take for granted: The cook's hands were clean, the food was cooked at the right temperature, and no one in the kitchen was sick.

But a state lawmaker wants to relax the rules that ensure those very requirements.

The ServSafe course teaches restaurant managers what to do to keep customers from getting sick.

The certification program covers everything from proper cooking temperatures, safe thawing methods, when to send an employee home because they're sick and even how to wash their hands and when.

However, State Senator Tom Apodaca wants fewer people certified.

"You have some businesses that have operated a long, long time without having to have somebody certified, a certified food protection manager there. And now, you have a brand new requirement in a tough economy, they're trying to comply with," said Andy Ellen, President of The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association.

Starting January 1, 2014, restaurants will be docked points if they don't have one ServSafe certified manager on each shift.

But the NC Merchants Retail Association said that would cost a lot of money.

Each ServSafe Certification costs restaurants $150. And with the turnover a lot of restaurants have, they would constantly be putting people in training.

Triad restaurants have mixed opinions about the rule.

"As long as one person is there to lay down those rules, 'we're going to do this for this, this is going to be hot, this is going to be cold, whatever.' As long as that's laid down, it's easy to follow those things," said Matthew Hand, kitchen manager at Fincastle's in Greensboro. "So, I think just the one is sufficient."

"We are driven by the consumer, so if it makes the consumer happier for us to have a person on each shift, then that's ultimately what we're going to do," said Eric Porter, owner of Porterhouse Restaurant in Greensboro.

Officials at one Triad health department said reducing the number of ServSafe managers would be a step backward.

According to Sandy Ellington, a health educator with the Guilford County Department of Public Health, the program is critical to consumers' health.

"We have the consumer in mind. We're trying really hard to protect people. And people are paying attention when they go into food service facilities now," said Ellington.

The U.S. Food Code only makes ServSafe an option for more than one restaurant manager. So according to Ellen, other states don't go as far as making it mandatory like North Carolina is planning to do.

The bill to change the plan has been referred to committee.


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