Most food service workers throughout Gila County should be prepared to take a test before the end of March.
The county has adopted an ordinance requiring food service worker and food service manager training. It was adopted at the Jan. 6 meeting of the board of supervisors and goes into effect Feb. 6.
"In Arizona, only Gila and Pinal counties had no food safety training requirements," said Dave Pote, director of the environmental health section of the Gila County Health and Community Services.
The new ordinance requires food service workers obtain a license by completing a test given by the health department. If a worker holds an unexpired license from any other Arizona county, it will be valid for its remaining time, then the worker will need to pass the test with a score of at least 70 percent. The license issued with passage of the test is good for a two-year period.
A worker who has not complied with testing, can only work for 30 days.
Food service managers must also pass a test to obtain a license. The management license is good for five years.
Pote presented the proposal for the testing in June 2003. At that time he shared statistics pointing to the importance of handling food properly:
- Foodborne-illness outbreaks cost $23 billion annually in legal fees.
- The average cost of a food poisoning lawsuit is $70,000.
- 76 million cases of foodborne illness are reported every year.
- 325,000 hospitalizations result from food poisoning annually.
- Each year, 5,000 deaths are attributed to foodborne illness.
"Food establishment owners are always responsible," Pote said, "Untrained employees may not recognize dangerous conditions."
For more information, contact the Gila County Health Department at (928) 474-1210.