County’s Environmental Health Department monitors food, beverages and lodging

By Michelle Fussy, Guest Columnist

Environmental Health is located within the Public Health Department at the Morrison County Government Center. Most people have heard the term “public health inspector” which is essentially what this area is responsible for.

Morrison County employs two full time registered sanitarians and one administrative support staff to support the program. A registered sanitarian is licensed by the Minnesota Department of Health and the primary purpose is to protect the public from disease and injury.

To do this, licenses are issued and inspections are conducted to ensure compliance with health and safety laws and rules pertaining to food, beverage and lodging establishments including but not limited to restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, schools and swimming pools.

Currently, Morrison County has 189 establishments licensed by Public Health and also contracts with Todd County to perform establishment inspections.

Establishments that serve food and beverages are subjected to a number of requirements. Prior to new construction or remodeling, a plan review, which assesses all components of an establishment, is reviewed and approved.

Establishments are inspected on a regular basis; the frequency depends on the risk factor. Risk factors are determined by what foods are prepared and served. Inspection frequency can range from annually for those that extensively process, reheat and prepare foods ahead of time to every two years for those that heat and serve prepackaged foods. Licenses for establishments are only renewed if property taxes are paid to date and the facility is in compliance with all rules and regulations.

Mobile food units are licensed either by the county or the Minnesota Department of Health. These units usually require a plan review if not previously licensed in Minnesota. Licenses are renewable every year.

Environmental Health inspects lodging establishments such as hotels, bed and breakfasts, resort cabins, youth camps, mobile home parks and recreational campgrounds for cleanliness, safety and comfort.

Schools, whether public or private, are inspected twice each school year to ensure proper food temperatures and cleanliness.

Public swimming pools are inspected on an annual basis to check for proper disinfection levels, safety equipment, pool logs and cleanliness. Proper disinfection levels are important to prevent water-borne illnesses such as cryptosporidium.

Environmental Health also addresses public health nuisance complaints, radon testing and water testing for licensed establishments with private wells, vending licenses and special event permits. A special event permit is needed if you are holding an event where food or beverages will be served to the general public. An application must be submitted within two weeks of the event; the license is good for up to three events per year.

New this year is a one-day special events license for those who will only serve food for one day per year. Keep in mind that all events held on church property or held in conjunction with a religious event or celebrations are exempt from licensing. If in doubt whether your event needs to be licensed, contact Environmental Health.

Aside from the above listed duties, one of the main focuses of this department has become education and outreach. By educating people about food safety, the risk of food borne illness is greatly reduced. “Cooking Safely for a Crowd” is a popular workshop put on by the University of Minnesota Extension. This certificate program teaches participants about safely serving food and beverages. This class fulfills the newly-established “Church Ladies” law, which requires members of a congregation to be trained in food safety.

For questions regarding Environmental Health issues, contact Mary at (320) 632-0386, Michelle F. at (320) 632-0363 or Michelle W. at (320) 632-0343.

 

Michelle Fussy is a registered sanitarian with Morrison County.

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