Friday, February 22, 2002

Legislature 2002

Legislation would implement
food safety classes
for isle handlers

By Crystal Kua

Cooks, food preparers, managers, dishwashers, cashiers and anyone else who handles edibles in restaurants, catering businesses and other places that sell food would be required to take food safety classes under a bill moving through the Legislature.

"It's just regulation run amok," said Patrick McCain, president of the Hawaii Restaurant Association, which opposes the bill. "What they are legislating is a replacement for on-the-job training."

But supporters of House Bill HB2060 say the measure is necessary to protect the public against food poisoning.

"The program is not meant to penalize any firm. It is meant to protect both the food establishment and the consuming public," said Dick Botti, president of the Hawaii Food Industry Association, which supports the bill.

Aurora Saulo Hodgson, a University of Hawaii food technology extension specialist, testified that Hawaii is one of only 11 states that do not have any regulations for food handlers and that the cases of food-borne illnesses in Hawaii have been on the rise.

"All reasonable steps should be taken to promote public confidence in cleanliness, sanitation and safety of the foods they consume," Hodgson said.

The state Health Department's current food educational program is voluntary. The bill would mandate food safety education.

Currently, the educational program includes watching a free video and taking a test. The entire process takes 30 to 45 minutes, but there still have been few takers, Botti said in testimony to lawmakers.

McCain said the legislation, which he contends contains vague language, amounts to licensing these workers to handle food because taking the test would now be required.

McCain said that many restaurants hire entry-level employees who speak English as a second language and are intimidated by the tests.

Instead of requiring the tests, the government should provide a wider distribution of the video.

The measure passed out of the House Health Committee and gets a hearing today before the Judiciary Committee.

Legislature Directory

Legislature Bills & Hawaii Revised Statutes

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