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Maricopa County releases food safety checklist for restaurants reopening

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PHOENIX — Restaurants in the Valley looking to reopen their dining rooms starting Monday now have a checklist to remind them about safe food practices they must follow.

“The last several weeks have been difficult for restaurant operators as many suspended dine-in services,” said Darcy Kober, director of the Maricopa County Environmental Services Department.

“We have a re-opening checklist for restaurants that reminds operators to ensure hot and cold holding equipment is operational, food supplies are wholesome and have adequate supplies of soap, paper towels and disinfectant on hand.”

The checklist also states restaurants should clean and sanitize all food contact surfaces, including ice machines.

Kober said restaurants should follow these guidelines as well as those that Gov. Doug Ducey’s office’s released this week. They include limiting parties to no more than 10 per table and avoiding instances where customers can serve their own food.

“With these food safety measures in place, we anticipate a smooth transition back to dine-in services,” she said.

Restaurants won’t need pre-inspections to reopen their dining rooms. But they do need to keep following measures to reduce the risk of food-borne disease, and there will be inspectors going around to ensure they do.

Kober said her department employs about 70 field inspectors.

They’ve continued to perform inspections throughout the coronavirus pandemic with some modifications. They’ve conducted more than 900 inspections of restaurants and other food establishments each week since dine-in services were suspended. That’s down from the usual 1,100 to 1,300.

As restaurants begin to reopen, inspectors are ready to return to their normal volume of inspections to ensure restaurants are following food code requirements.

“The food code requires restaurants to have a certified food protection manager on staff with knowledge of food-borne disease prevention,” Kober said.  “They must also properly disinfect food preparation and dining areas and have a policy in place that requires employees to report illness and stay home if they are sick.”

She added restaurants that were closed during a scheduled inspection will be revisited once they reopen.

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