Dirty hands, nasty hygiene top new restaurant inspections - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Dirty hands, nasty hygiene top new restaurant inspections

(WMC TV) - This time, restaurant inspectors are getting personal -- and restaurant operators are OK with that.

Wednesday, Memphis/Shelby County health officials briefed members of the Memphis Restaurant Association on new health codes Tennessee will enforce statewide starting July 2015.

Otho Sawyer, supervisor of the health department's restaurant environmentalists, said they will still be sticklers for food temperatures, but employee hygiene and hand-washing will be paramount.

"Now, we will be spending more of our time observing personnel," Sawyer said.

They'll heavily penalize personnel who aren't changing gloves (if using gloves - not required by current code), who aren't washing hands between glove changes and who aren't washing their hands period -- as well as scrutinize the conditions of the sinks and work stations where they wash them.

Members of the association said the temperature's right for the new approach.

"Most foodborne illness, it comes from your employees," said Patrick Reilly, owner/executive chef of The Majestic Grille and president of the association. "The inspections will be more indicative of the real state of the health and the cleanliness and the operation of the establishments."

Memphis/Shelby County establishments are concerned, however, about two particular approaches to inspections slated to begin July 2015:

* TIME IN LIEU OF TEMPERATURE. Inspections based on how long a food item's been in holding, like a bin of gravy on a warming table. "We won't temperature that because we know they will have to discard that in four hours," said Sawyer of the "TILT" rule.

* NO BARE-HANDED 'READY-TO-EAT' CONTACT. The code will prohibit bare-handed contact of fruits, vegetables and foods already cooked. "A pastry or piece of chicken that's been cooked, you shouldn't touch that with your bare hands because it's already been cooked, and bacteria can grow faster," Sawyer said.

In Wednesday's meeting, Sawyer and other health officials assured the association the department will offer training to help restaurant employees comply with the new codes.

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