State moves forward with food safety grading

Green, yellow, and red placards.

It’s all part of the state’s new food safety grading system.

“Why is it important for Hawaii to have this type of system?” KHON2 asked.

“Again, the biggest thing is for transparency. The public wants to know, especially a regulatory agency, what the results of their inspections are,” said Peter Oshiro, Environmental Health Program Manager at the State Department of Health.

The rollout of the new rules is just getting started, with consultations at 10,000 food establishments across the state.

So who’s spreading the word? Twenty-six health inspectors on Oahu, making 5 visits each day, and at least 125 visits each week.

We wanted to know what businesses are learning during their consultation with the Health Department. So we went to Kakaako Kitchen to get answers.

“Did you notice any major changes that Kakaako Kitchen has to make?” KHON2 asked.

“Not really, except get more thermometers for small mass foods like that,” said Russell Siu, managing director at Kakaako Kitchen.

That’s one of the new rules: thermometers used in all food cooking. Before, they just had to be available.

Another change: food handlers must wear gloves.

When it comes to washing hands, workers must now wash up to their forearms.

“I think these consultations are good for any restaurant because the Health Department is actually letting us know what they need from us,” said Marcy Uyehara, general manager at Kakaako Kitchen.

The consultations are just getting underway.

The next step is official inspections, starting in late June or early July.

The Department of Health says all food establishments should have a colored placard in place within a year.

“Is this going to change the way you run your business?” KHON2 asked.

“No, I think it’s gonna change in the sense of being more aware. Being more aware of what’s going on and the surroundings. Is it sanitary? Are people following the rules? I think we’re going to be more conscious to the point until it becomes second nature,” Siu said.

The Department of Health says these surprise visits aren’t to catch anyone in violation. They’re just to educate and help food establishments meet the new requirements.

Health officials have even printed out informational packets in different languages to make sure the message is understood.

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