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.

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