Foodservice Equipment Reports

Phoenix Ops Take On Self-Regulation

A pilot program is giving some Phoenix-area restaurants more responsibility for their own food safety and cutting back on the number of full inspections of those eateries.

The voluntary program unofficially went into effect in February but Maricopa County officials say it is just now getting into full swing. It’s designed to encourage a cooperative approach to food safety and allow the county to focus its resources on policing higher-risk establishments.

Operators who sign on are required to develop safe food-handling policies that meet federal standards and will be required to train their staff members and monitor their performance on their own. Unannounced inspections will continue for restaurants enrolled in the new program, but they’ll alternate between a full check and "verification visit." In the latter, an inspector will determine whether the operation is implementing its own policies by, for example, observing workers measure food temperatures to be sure they are properly trained to follow the health codes.

Depending on how effective and popular it proves to be, the program could eventually become mandatory—easing the onus on local government and lowering inspection fees.

"It is not unusual to have industries self-regulate," Sandra Shire, director of Arizona State University’s master’s program in regulatory science and health safety, told the Arizona Republic.  "As long as restaurants understand and meet the food-code standards, the public-health impact should be limited."