Rules tightened on food

Annapolis requires restaurant managers to be trained in safety, maintenance, hygiene

October 11, 2006|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

Annapolis restaurants will face stricter health regulations under a new certification program for food service facility managers.

The new program, unanimously approved by the council Monday night, will require restaurants to have managers trained in food handling, maintenance and hygiene.

Alderwoman Classie Gillis Hoyle, a Ward 3 Democrat, introduced the bill after hearing complaints from constituents about improper food handling.

"So many things are going on with food, and we want to make sure that we are protecting our citizens," she said. "I want food handled correctly, and it's a good thing that we'll have someone on site who is responsible. This is a step in the right direction."

Hoyle said that many restaurants already have trained managers in place and that her measure will make sure regulations are uniform. Language and cultural barriers sometimes complicate training efforts, she said.

By July, each of Annapolis' approximately 200 restaurants will be required to have at least one certified food service facility manager available for consultation during business hours. After July 2009, the certified managers must be on site during operating hours. Institutions offering certification courses include Anne Arundel Community College.

Managers will be responsible for training food service employees.

Hoyle estimated that the city will spend about $12,000 a year on the program, which will be administered by the Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs.

Similar training requirements have been adopted in Montgomery, Howard, Baltimore and Prince George's counties. Next year, the Anne Arundel County Health Department is expected to submit similar legislation to the County Council.

Melvin Thompson, the vice president for government relations for the Restaurant Association of Maryland, said his organization plans to lobby County Council members to make sure that nonprofit organizations are covered by any legislation.

Restaurants in Anne Arundel are now allowed to decide how much training is necessary to work in the food-service industry.

Annapolis officials will work with the Anne Arundel County Health Department to make sure restaurants comply with the new rules, which the city will enforce. Violators will be subject to a $500 fine.

The county's health director, Fran Phillips, supports the city program: "This is proactive legislation and we're very pleased with the spirit of the bill. It's another layer of protection and an opportunity to ensure the public that commercial kitchens are up to the highest national standards."

The county inspects full-service restaurants three times a year, for a total of more than 4,100 inspections each year. The number of investigations prompted by food-borne illnesses has been declining, according to the county Health Department.

The Health Department already provides on-site training in Spanish to food service workers.

In other business, the council voted 7-1 to reject an amendment to the city's development freeze that would have prohibited the owner of a home that straddles two or more lots from demolishing the home and replacing it with several houses. Aimed at limiting infill, the amendment was sponsored by Alderwoman Julie Stankivic, an independent who represents Ward 6.

In a related measure, Stankivic and Alderman Joshua Cohen, a Ward 8 Democrat, proposed establishing a new low-density zoning classification that would limit housing in certain neighborhoods to one single-family home per acre.

The Rules & City Government Committee and the Planning Commission will take up the ordinance in the coming weeks.nia.henderson@baltsun.com

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