Maui County facing food inspector shortage

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) — Maui doesn’t have enough food safety inspectors.

Maui District Health Office program chief Patti Kitkowski told The Maui News (http://bit.ly/1dj6cZY ) in an article published Sunday that the county only has three inspectors. They’re responsible for looking after more than 1,700 registered food establishments, as well as temporary vendors that sell food on weekends or at special events.

The county hired two more inspectors from the mainland in recent years, but Kitkowski said they left because of the high cost of living and low pay.

The FDA recommends that high-risk establishments be checked every four to six months, but Kitkowski said two years may pass between inspections on Maui.

Most inspections are “spot checks,” or unscheduled visits to restaurants, food trucks, grocery stores and other eateries, she said.

“We are also dealing with a lot of illegal vendors, and we cannot be there 24 hours a day,” Kitkowski said. “Lots of things happen at night or over the weekend.”

The most common violations are lack of hand-washing, poor temperature controls, cross-contamination by raw or uncooked foods, and vermin, she said.

She said the office hopes the public will help by calling in. She recommends asking people who sell food door to door for their permits.

The state Legislature granted 13 additional full-time inspector positions, with three positions on Maui, to be filled over the next three years. The funding to hire has not yet been released.

The state Department of Health has proposed permit fee increases that would help fund the positions as well as other department operations.

Food establishments in Hawaii currently pay an average of $47 per year in permit fees. The proposed rules would expand the range of fees from $50 to $600 to be paid annually. Eateries would pay an average of $200 per year, said Peter Oshiro, the department’s sanitation branch chief.

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Information from: The Maui News, http://www.mauinews.com

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