Health ratings of Columbia County restaurants are ex-pected to temporarily dip in the new year as changes to the new statewide food code go into effect, according to county health officials.
"It is not going to take much to make your score go down," Andrea Frazier, the county health department environmental specialist, recently told restaurant representatives at an informational meeting about the changes affecting all Georgia restaurants. "You're probably going to dip some, but you'll come back up."
The many changes include required hand-washing, no bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat foods and a new grading system, which will give restaurants a letter grade based on its numerical score.
Frazier said the goal of the changes is to further prevent the spread of E. coli, salmonella, hepatitis and the Norovirus.
The Columbia County Health Department held several classes in October to acquaint restaurant owners and managers with the changes that went into effect Dec. 1. Officials will judge restaurants using the old and new grading sheets until Jan. 1, Frazier said.
Nearly 500 representatives from restaurants in Columbia, McDuffie, Richmond, Lincoln and Jefferson counties have attended the classes.
"We wanted to give everybody an opportunity to see these changes, and there's a lot," Frazier said. "We've had a really positive response from the restaurants. It is a lot to learn. It is a lot of information."
The new changes also require more stringent heating, reheating and cooling temperatures and times. In addition, they require restaurant employees to mark the date on any food held longer than 24 hours, using time as a public health control.
Frazier said she expects the restaurants' health rating to temporarily drop as owners, managers and employees learn the changes and the new grading system.
"We're going to get through this together," Frazier told restaurant representatives.
For more information, visit health.state.ga.us/programs/enservices/index.asp.
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