To say food safety in restaurants and other food outlets is important is an understatement. However, the public doesn’t hear much about it unless there is an actual outbreak of foodborne illness. Occasionally, awareness is heightened by publication in local newspapers or TV segments about restaurant inspection reports.
What isn’t widely known is that the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, with the strong support of the industry, has worked diligently throughout its history to continually raise food safety standards for our industry. We have done this to ensure that people serving food to the public know the latest science behind food safety, and laws and regulations reflect that science. We do this to protect the public as well as the integrity of our industry.
On Jan. 1, we took another big step forward as a new law (strengthening a 20-year-old existing law) went into effect. The original law requires that every restaurant in Wisconsin, regardless of size, have at least one manager on staff certified in food safety (Certified Food Protection Manager). To become certified, the manager has to pass a state approved exam.
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The existing law also requires that a Certified Food Protection Manager be recertified every five years. However, recertification was accomplished by class time — no exam. Now an exam is required for both original certification and recertification. WRA feels this is the best way to ensure the manager demonstrates knowledge and is up-to-date on current science and food codes. By the way, the city of Milwaukee has required this since 2008, which our association also supported.
Keep in mind that food safety is a complex, science based issue. Attempts to simplify things, can lead to inaccurate conclusions. Also the science of food safety changes rapidly, so do the FDA and Wisconsin Food Codes, which restaurants are required to follow.
This is why food safety knowledge accountability is critical. WRA supported this stricter re-certification process because it helps to protect customers, restaurants and our industry from dangerous and costly outbreaks of foodborne illness.
The Wisconsin Restaurant Association has made it our mission to help all restaurants and food establishments commit to food safety. We communicate this to our members and the restaurant industry frequently and offer tools and resources to ensure that food safety is priority No. 1.
Ed Lump is president and CEO of the Wisconsin Restaurant Association.
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