Metro Public Health Department wants more food inspectors

Photo: WKRN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Nashville’s growing food scene is adding to the workload of the Metro Public Health Department’s Food Protection Services department.

Currently, there are 11 full-time food inspectors, with one open position. The department would like to add three more full-time inspectors for a total of 15.

“If we have to quickly go in and do those inspections because of the workload we have to get done, we are not going to be as effective,” Food Inspector II Danny Ripley said.

Ripley said he started with Metro’s health department 13 years ago as a food inspector.

“The idea is to give the information to the operators to maintain control and insure those control measures are in place,” he said. “The risk is always going to be there when we eat out, but we can minimize that risk through education.”

Food inspectors make two annual inspections of food establishments in Davidson County.

According to the department, in 2015 the inspectors completed 13,617 inspections.

Also, last year new FDA guidelines for health inspections took effect, July 1, 2015.

The guidelines require more focus on the policies and procedures in place at restaurants to prevent food borne illnesses.

Those can include policies on sick workers, hand washing and food preparations. That is in addition to the standard inspection requirements.

“These things just take more time,” Ripley said. “They simply do.”

At the same time, inspections take longer and there are more inspections to complete.

In 2015 there were 4,621 food establishments for the department to inspect. Now there are 4,855.

In addition to regular inspections, inspectors also make site visits when they get complaints and return follow up visits for non-compliant restaurants.

The department also provides classroom training for food service workers. Last year 1,580 workers went through training.

The Health Department said revenue generated by health permits will pay the cost of the three new full time positions.

Mayor Megan Barry must include the positions in her budget and Metro Council must approve it for the positions to be added.

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