Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Getting to Know an Environmental Health Specialist...

With all of the disease outbreaks from spinach to sprouts, how do we know if the food served in Jefferson County is safe? Seems like a big job, and, it is! Inspectors in Jefferson County conduct over 4,600 inspections of over 1800 food service establishments.

We inspect all kinds of food service establishments; from full service restaurants to school cafeterias, grocery stores, and even the hot dog cart at a neighborhood festival.

There is variety no doubt about that, no day is ever the same. As we walk into a restaurant unannounced, we become food detectives and our skills of observation and surveillance kick into gear. Each inspection is a “snap shot” in time. We have to learn a lot about a restaurant in just two or three visits a year.

So how you may ask do we know what goes on the other days of the year?

We look for clues about how food is handled when we’re not there. We ask how they prepare items on their menu, collect information like food temperatures and we ask a lot of questions. We watch how food handlers prepare and cook food, wash hands and dishes. And of course we document any areas that need correcting.

To do your own detective work, look up your favorite restaurant inspection by going to our web site at

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day... A note from Environmental Health

Hi, I’m Dr Jim Dale, Director of Environmental Health here at Jefferson County Public Health in Golden, Colorado. Today is Earth Day. The earth is like our body. We need to eat right and exercise – take care of our bodies. Likewise we need to respect and take care of the earth. American Indian Chief Seattle got it right, He noted, “Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” Do a good deed for the earth today on Earth Day and everyday.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Getting to Know an Environmental Health Specialist...

Hi, my name is Carla Opp. I work in the Environmental Health Division of the Jefferson County Department of Health & Environment. I began my career here 14 years ago as what is commonly called a “restaurant inspector”.

Sometimes it’s difficult to describe what inspectors do in the Environmental Health Field. We’re known by so many different titles, such as Environmental Health Specialist, Health Inspector, Food Inspectors, Sanitarians and other names I won’t mention here.

Our primary job is to monitor the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink.
The purpose of monitoring these areas is to help prevent disease and control the spread of disease if it does occur. Some of the best known types of inspections are in restaurants, child care centers, swimming pools, on-site wastewater systems (better known as septic systems), and sources of possible air pollution - such as auto body shops and dry cleaners.

I am most familiar with the food industry. I can still remember my first job, washing dishes in my fathers’ cafĂ© in a small town in the panhandle of Texas. My Mom would make pies and my Dad would fry up a mean Hamburger Steak with piles of fries. Great times! A plate of french fries was 10 cents back then. Can you imagine?

I have always worked in the food business, either in a health care setting, a non-profit organization serving meals to senior citizens, or distributing food to the less fortunate. Who knew I would someday reverse roles and become a food inspector?

Food means a lot of things to different people. It can be fun, comforting, nutritious, wholesome and just plain delicious. What could possibly go wrong that we need to inspect it?

Over many years of research and scientific discovery, we in the food science world have discovered that food can be contaminated by biological, chemical and physical contaminates that can cause illness or injury.

Food inspections have changed over time as we learn more about how food becomes contaminated, and what organisms emerge as being harmful.

My goal in this blog is to write more about food inspections, serving safe food, and more about what Environmental Health Specialists do in the food inspection field.