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A Determined Approach to Reducing Foodborne Illness in Harris County, Texas


<p>Summary Harris County Public Health Services (HCPHS) is a local health department (LHD) serving the third largest county in the United States. HCPHS' Food Safety Program is responsible for the inspection and permitting of approximately 7,000 retail food establishments. To ensure maximum efficiency and effectiveness in its efforts to reduce foodborne illness risk factors in Harris County, HCPHS primary goal is to meet all nine of the Food and Drug Administration Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program Standards (FDA VNRFRPS). HCPHS currently meets Standard 7 and will meet Standard 5 by late 2012. This grant would allow for the provision of resources necessary to address the gaps in six of the remaining seven standards. Although Standard 8 will be analyzed and identified for local governmental consideration, the outcome will not be within the prevue of this grant as it would require ongoing added resources. HCPHS recently amended a County Court Order allowing conditions to be placed on food establishments based on foodborne illness risk factors. HCPHS proposes the hiring of a Standards Development Coordinator (SDC) to research and develop action plans and procedures designed to address long term compliance with each of our 27 critical violations that comprise the risk-based inspection. The action plans would be designed to require active managerial control over the repeated risk factors related to foodborne illness identified on an establishment's yearly risk assessment. Fulfillment of the action plans would be a condition of receiving a food establishment permit. The SDC would work with Information Technology to automate the prescriptive plan based on information captured by a risk assessment. Each of the action plans will be piloted, reviewed and revised for practicability, effectiveness and ability to monitor. As a means of managing the action plans and controlling the amount of information and data that would be generated by the action plans, the SDC will develop an automated mechanism of notification, storing, and monitoring all documentation and information received by the qualifying food establishments. A baseline survey will be conducted at the beginning of this three year commitment to identify the most prevalent foodborne illness risk factors in Harris County. Prior to the end of the third year, a self-assessment will be conducted to ensure determine needed areas of improvement going forward. However, the FDAVNRFRPS that would be met through this grant can be maintained after the grant has ended with current resources. Without the aid of this grant, HCPHS will continue to strive towards obtaining the standards but at a very slow pace considering the current and anticipated resources.</p>

Lane, Janet Henderson
Harris County
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