Agriculture Department to distribute food safety action plan for restaurants, grocery stores
Capital News Service
LANSING –The Michigan Department of Agriculture will distribute an emergency action plan for retail food establishments beginning in January as part of an effort to protect the state’s food supply.
The plan will tell establishments such as restaurants and grocery stores how they should react in the event of a power outage, loss of water supply, water contamination, fire, flood or sewage back-up.
“There’s been a lot of changes in emergency management since 9/11,” said Lt. Col. Timothy Yungfer, deputy director of the State Police. “There is bio-terrorism, eco-terrorism that has to do with water and agri-terrorism. We want to make sure that food is safe from farm to fork.”
According to the Department of Agriculture, having such a guide in place makes it easier for regulators to work with establishments during emergencies because everyone will be following the same protocol.
“As we’ve seen recently in the news, there can be quite a chain reaction when it comes to food regulation,” said Bridget Beckman, communications officer for the department. “It is critical that the food being provided be maintained and sold in a way that keeps its integrity, or else it can have a serious impact on the public health of the community.”
Recent examples of serious food-borne outbreaks are the E. coli contamination of spinach that sickened hundreds and a nanovirus that sickened patrons at a Lansing-area Applebee’s restaurant.
The emergency action plan was produced by the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion, Macomb County Health Department, state Agriculture Department, Michigan Restaurant Association and the Oakland County Health Department.
“Creating the plan was a matter of making sure that we are all on a level playing field when it comes to dealing with emergencies,” said Gary White, division director of environmental health services for Macomb County.
“There was an inconsistency in parts of the state with the way people handled things. And that’s not saying that they were not effective, just that everybody does things a little bit differently,” he said.
All food establishments must comply with the plan under their operating licenses as soon as the documents are formally distributed, said White.
The action plan is available now in English, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic on the Agriculture Department’s Web site.
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