Food Safety Summit

By:  RJ Beck, Environmental Health Coordinator

On June 13th, Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) hosted a Food Safety Summit marking the first of its kind in the State of Kentucky.  The Summit provided the unique opportunity for food safety professionals, the general public, and NKY Health to meet, learn, and open communication channels amongst one another.

The opportunity to offer an event of this caliber required a dedicated team effort among EHS staff over many months.  The idea of a Summit originated during a series of meetings EHS had held with a “Food Safety Committee” during 2017.  This committee was comprised of a group of highly performing industry food managers and EHS staff, working to identify solutions of common food safety obstacles encountered.

The Summit was kicked off with an introduction and welcome by Dr. Saddler.  Steve Divine, Director of EHS, then gave an overview of the Health Department and EHS to the group and laid out the theme of the day of “elevating standards.”   Ted Talley, Food Program Manager presented “The Importance of Food Safety”, highlighting critical food safety concepts and the pitfalls when these aren’t followed.  A special emphasis was shared regarding the ongoing Hepatitis A outbreak in Kentucky.  Information relating to controlling the spread, symptoms, and prevention measures were all covered along with a short Q&A from the group. 

Breakout sessions were offered to attendees based on general public or food industry leaders.  These sessions allowed for a smaller interactive setting.  General public sessions covered Food Inspections 101 and Food Safety at Home.  Industry leader sessions shared updates on the adoption of the 2013 FDA Model Food Code and additional Hepatitis A discussion.

Following lunch, all attendees participated in a “hands on” activity relating to critical food safety risk factors which is demonstrated monthly at the regular Certified Food Manager class.  Activity stations setup throughout the meeting room included:  food date marking, cooling cooked foods, proper food storage, temperature controls, and hygienic practice demonstrations.   Multiple additional trainings have been offered to attendees who wanted their employees and co-workers to experience the “hands on” activities that weren’t able to attend.

Ted Talley facilitated a foodborne illness exercise simulating a large group of sickened individuals that had eaten at several food establishments over the course of 2 days.  This exercise allowed for attendees to work together in small groups with the assistance of EHS staff.  Based on information provided of the symptoms and observations, teams were then asked to identify the root cause of the outbreak.  This exercise provided the audience with a unique “look behind the curtains” of what EHS staff face when investigating a foodborne illness.

Stacy Roof, President of Kentucky Restaurant Association, and Evan Koller, Board Chairman of Northern Kentucky Restaurant Association then gave a brief overview of their working relationship with NKHD, stressing the importance of open communication.

The day was rounded out by a panel discussion and Q&A session.  Through feedback gathered, one of the focus areas EHS looks to improve upon is an increased presence on social media platforms.  Attendees welcomed the idea of food safety topics being shared through multiple outlets.

The Food Safety Summit provided a unique setting where the general public, food industry, and staff opened messaging and communication channels.   Although the health department can provide education and assistance, ultimately it is the responsibility of food service professionals to operate within the parameters of the food code.  EHS is responsible for permitting and enforcing the rules and regulations governing approximately 3,000 establishments, including restaurants to protect public health.