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Thursday April 26, 2018

Kathy's Commentary: The good and bad of the legislative session

The World Herald and Journal Star report hundreds of Nebraska food safety inspections are running late.

As one of the industries that is inspected by the Nebraska Dept. of Ag, I would like to reassure the general public that food in Nebraska is safe. Inspections are done in a timely fashion and violations in the Food Code are, in many instances, corrected while the inspector is on sight. Violations that are not able to be corrected immediately must be corrected when the second inspection is conducted – usually within a very short time frame. In the event of equipment malfunction, the equipment is not used until repaired or replaced. To truly understand the system, one would have to realize that many inspection results are “in the pipeline” between the actual inspection and entering the data into the database. This would make it appear as if the inspections were late when in reality they are completed but not recorded. Regarding inspections that are 11 and 23 years late: closed facilities do not require inspections. The error was that the facilities were not removed from the list of locations to be inspected. The audit should have discovered that fact. The report is in error because new food establishments are not allowed to open until they are inspected, yet the report stated that there were 94 newly licensed food establishments that had never been inspected. Again, the audit did not consider those locations that had been inspected but the inspection results were not entered into the permanent record prior to the opening of the new location. Are there some locations that have not been inspected within the timeframe set out in state law? Of course there are. But the problem is not near as deep or as wide as this audit indicates. My question is, what good is an audit that does not consider reality?

George Hanssen recently retired and while he held the position of Program Manager, he ran a tight ship and held everyone accountable. Melva Ball has stepped into this position and is continuing to practice the same high standards. These are individuals who care about food safety in Nebraska and they do so by educating those they inspect, to prevent repeat violations. Our food is safe, and to infer otherwise is just plain irresponsible.

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