All 71 New Paltz restaurants now have a new reason to celebrate after health and building inspectors reported no major violations to public health.
With the end of 2017 approaching, data shows that the year resulted in zero major infractions in food establishments, according to the observations of food safety and health inspectors. Exceeding no more than 10 minor violations per restaurant, New Paltz follows a trend of increased focus on food and safety requirements.
Health inspectors check the overall cleanliness of a restaurant and its employees twice a year, or every six months to make sure that proper food handling protocols are fully implemented and thoroughly executed to prevent foodborne illness and other health complications.
In 2016 the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that roughly one in six Americans (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases each year. Due to these alarming statistics, food safety has become an increasingly prevalent issue nationwide, resulting in harsher punishments for those who violate health codes.
Some of the aspects checked during these inspections to ensure requirements are being upheld by the owner of food establishments include food preparation and storage practices, equipment maintenance, facility construction, cleaning and sanitizing process, water sources, sewage disposal and pest control.
Owner of New Paltz Bagel Cafe Paul Kellerman explained in order to fulfill the requirements of inspectors, the store follows a certain protocol.
“People are very conscious of the ways food is handled,” he said. “Here, we have different sets of procedures that everyone has to do such as cleaning procedures and food handling. Everyday bakers and cashiers have rules to follow constantly.”
Monthly maintenance is also done within the shop, including scraping floors and cleaning walls.
Kellerman described some of the actions he has to take to be somewhat of a pet peeve, but nevertheless food safety precautions are followed to ensure minimum violations.
“We go through more than 4,000 handling gloves,” he said. “Every little thing you do you need to change your gloves, in order to follow proper protocol,” he said. “They come and they see if my counters are clean, if my employees are wearing gloves when handling food and if my refrigerators are the right temperature.”
In addition to food safety and health inspection visits, restaurants receive visits from both building and fire inspectors to check each facility, ensuring the building is fit enough to be an adequately secure food establishment.
Building Department Head of New Paltz Bryant Arms explained that the fire and building department work together with the health department to assure customers are not only consuming safe food, but also eating in a safe establishment.
Light fixtures, doors, emergency exits, fire extinguishers and structural problems are all taken into consideration when checking a restaurant, noted Arms.
The most common violation that Arms observes is panic hardware not functioning properly.
“They need to be fluid and easy to use in case of emergency,” he said.
Other common violations include not having verified sprinkler systems or creating a clear path to the doorway.
New Paltz Fire Safety Inspector Cory Wirthmann reiterated that statement: “The biggest thing I look out for is that exits are clear and unobstructed. People need ways to get out,” and emphasized that while carbon monoxide detectors are required by law, not everyone has one which is another common minor violation he sees every year.
“Of course there are ways that restaurants could be more safe, but for the most part, everyone is trying to do the right thing no matter what,” Wirthmann said.