GCHD Highlights September as Food Safety Month
GALVESTON COUNTY, Texas – Galveston County Health District (GCHD) sanitarians routinely inspect more than 1,800 food service establishments for compliance with state regulations designed to protect the health and well-being of customers.
This September, in the spirit of Food Safety Month, GCHD Consumer Health Services highlights five ways to prevent food poisoning while dining out.
- Look for a valid permit.
All properly permitted and inspected food service establishments are required to display their food service permit where customers can see it. The permit is bright yellow and contains the Galveston County Health District logo at the top and a seal at the bottom. Locate the permit and verify it’s not expired.
“A permit verifies the establishment met the proper safety requirements to prepare and serve food,” said Martin Entringer, GCHD Consumer Health Services manager. “In addition, a permit confirms the establishment is in our system to be routinely inspected.”
- Check inspection scores.
Food service establishments are inspected at least twice annually based on criteria established in the Texas Food Establishment Rules. Inspections may occur more frequently based on an establishment’s risk level, violations and complaints.
GCHD performs approximately 5,500 food service inspections annually. Inspection results, scored as demerits, are posted online at www.gchd.org/restaurantscores.
“It’s important to remember demerit scores reflect conditions at the time of the inspection and may not be an indication of current conditions,” Entringer continued. “We suggest reviewing demerit scores over a period of time for the best representation of an establishment’s overall conditions.”
- Check for cleanliness.
The first indication of a restaurant’s overall cleanliness is the exterior. Take a look around to see if the building and grounds are well maintained. Once inside, make sure the tables, silverware and dishware are clean. Servers should be well-groomed and wearing clean uniforms. Restroom cleanliness also offers insight into a restaurant’s overall sanitation.
“If the areas you can easily see are not up to par, the kitchen probably isn’t either,” Entringer said. “If this is the case, you may want to take your business elsewhere.”
- Be cautious with raw or undercooked food.
Raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood may carry bacteria that can cause illness, especially with those who have medical conditions. Proper thorough cooking kills potentially harmful bacteria.
If your food is undercooked or raw, send it back.
- Be careful with leftovers.
Taking food to go is perfectly safe if you’re careful. Remember to refrigerate within two hours or one hour if the weather is over 90 degrees.
Leftovers should be eaten within three to four days.
Gold Ribbon Awards
GCHD annually presents Gold Ribbon Awards to food service establishments with exemplary food safety practices. See a list of winning establishments at www.gchd.org/goldribbons.
GCHD investigates sanitation complaints related to food service establishments. Complaints may be filed by filling out the form at www.gchd.org/complaints or by calling 409-938-2241. Please provide contact information to allow GCHD to follow-up. Pictures may be submitted with complaints.
Food poisoning is a common yet preventable public health problem. If you think you’ve become ill from eating at a restaurant in Galveston County, it’s important to quickly report it to GCHD. Prompt reporting gives GCHD epidemiologists the best chance at determining the source.
When you call, be prepared to offer information about your symptoms, what and where you recently ate and if you’ve seen a doctor.
Suspected foodborne illness may be reported to 409-938-2208 or 409-938-2215 during business hours or 1-888-241-0442 afterhours.
Visit www.facebook.com/gchdinfo for additional food safety information throughout the month of August.