Food safety inspections lag
By Allison M. Heinrichs
Published: Thursday, Sept. 7, 2006,
If you buy food in Allegheny County, chances are the facility you're getting it from hasn't been inspected for food safety in more than a year.
Of Pennsylvania's 10 city and county health departments, Allegheny County ranks last in the frequency of food-safety inspections, said Glenda Christy, the county's chief of food safety, at the county Board of Health meeting Wednesday.
"With the number of staff we have, 67 percent (of the county's food establishments) are not receiving annual inspections," Christy said.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that any establishment selling food -- including stores and restaurants -- be inspected at least once a year. Four inspections each year should be done at places that handle raw ingredients.
"With all the high-profile (food-borne disease) outbreaks we've had in this area ... I just think we are really looking for trouble," said Dr. Lee Harrison, a member of the health board.
A 2003 hepatitis outbreak sickened 660 people and killed four who ate green onions at a Chi-Chi's restaurant in Beaver County. A 2004 salmonella outbreak sickened at least 34 people who ate tomatoes from various Sheetz convenience stores in Western Pennsylvania.
There are 14 food inspectors for the county's 7,437 food establishments.
"At the present staffing level, we are not providing adequate protection to the citizens of Allegheny County," Christy said.
To inspect every facility at least once a year, the health department would need at least an additional six inspectors, she said.
"We do not have the money to add staff," said Dr. Bruce Dixon, director of the health department.
Rather than hiring new inspectors, the health department is working on a plan to designate three supervisors as inspectors. Although a staff of 17 inspectors wouldn't allow the department to inspect every facility once a year, it would allow them to get to the places that sell more than just pre-packaged food, Dixon said.
"Every area is hurting. Every program is understaffed for what we need to do," Dixon said. "Our human-health organizations are operating on a shoestring."
Top Health Stories
News | Sports
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.