I love life!

Hi, I am Jo and this is my blog about my life. Here you will find entries on cooking, gardening, food safety and the interesting things happening in my search for an inexpensive and healthy way of living. My home is located in North Florida and I am relearning how to take care of myself at almost 50. This is the deep South so my garden and season may be a bit different than yours. I look forward to seeing what you have to say as time passes. Read on and have a beautiful day!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Sometimes it Sucks being a Food Inspector

Most everyone who reads this knows I am a food inspector. My job is to assess food operations and cite them for violations based on the Federal Food Code and the applicable Florida Rules. I do not write the Food Code or Florida Rules. If you have an issue write your representative. I can not modify the rules just for you. Really, I can't. No exceptions.

Let me be clear- I like my job. I like my coworkers and and I like the people I interact with on a daily basis. I hold no ill will towards the people I inspect unless they blatantly disregard food safety after they have been told what needs to be done and fail to comply. I do not, contrary to belief, write violations to spite people. It is illegal. Nor do I write violations that can not be substantiated. Again that is illegal. We have systems in place to ensure I am consistent and doing my job properly.

Hear me now...I make mistakes. That is right I am human, I make mistakes. If I make a mistake I have to correct that mistake. Normally the mistakes I make are in trying to help someone or in missing something on an inspection. That means when the mistake is caught, once I realize it it must be corrected.  Usually, the mistake is in your favor and it has to be corrected when I realize it on a following visit. Then, believe it or not, you get mad. Yep, I am the bad guy. I should have caught it on a previous visit- my error. According to the law the firm is still responsible for being in compliance. So if I miss the violation it is kind of like you were speeding  and the police don't pull you as they were patrolling 2 streets over. You were still speeding and just did not get caught ....this time.

I will work to educate the facilities I am responsible for bringing into compliance. We can not explain everything all of the time and our job is not to train the staff of the facilities we inspect. I will give you information and point you to websites. I will not and can not explain all of the food code and why every violation is important. That is up to the management of the facility.If you are retailing, storing, shipping or manufacturing food it is your responsibility to research rules and regulations pertaining to your business. Which leads to the next point.

It is also not my job to hunt you down to make sure you are permitted. If I find you without a permit- you will be cited. End of story. If you wish to handle food ( food is considered consumables and that includes, ice, water vending, supplements, chips candy, mixers and almost everything in the grocery store) you must have a permit of some kind. A county business license is not a food permit. It is your job to be current on the permit and to post the permit in your facility and to meet all requirements to maintain that permit. So pay your fees and maintain your facility.

Lately, the trend is towards an informal economy. I am ok with that. Once you start advertising your products and that includes eggs and milk on Craig's List you are in the realm of what needs to be regulated.  You are then retailing to the general public and are on shaky ground. I can not speak to the cottage laws other than to say." Dear god, what was the state thinking?" We can't get compliance in a lot of the places we regulate and now there are foods people can make at home and sell at farmers markets and green markets. Really??? 

How many times have you had a friend that you would  not eat the cookies they made because of the cat that climbed on the counters or a lack of sanitation in their home?? Now if that person wants to make cookies and sell them to the unsuspecting public they can if they follow the guidelines for Cottage Foods. Sheesh, it will matter when someone gets ill. If you want to trade you jam for your neighbors eggs I can't stop that nor would I want to.

So in this last week I have had an older man give me grief because he wanted to operate without a permit and I told him he could not. I had to tell a young girl she could not wholesale honey as she did not have a permit. I had to tell a facility they had to have hot water at their sinks and issue a poor and I know them personally. I had to make another woman wait for 3 visits and she got hot water in her restroom before I wrote her permit.
Here is the thing, it sucks and it is my job. All of these people are upset, all for different reasons and the common denominator is me. Yet not just me- the true common denominator is they all want to sell food. I am the person who makes sure they do it properly. I am the face of the laws that make them angry. If I did not believe in what I was doing it would be really tough. My job is necessary to keep people safe. I may not always agree with the laws I enforce but I am not allowed to pick and choose. So when I come in your facility  keep in mind I am not the laws I enforce. I am there to do my job and try to keep people safe.

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