Alaska’s food safety budgets are taking more cuts as the state tries to close a $4 billion budget deficit caused by low oil prices.
Another proposed cut of $268,000 is going to mean fewer restaurant inspections and reduced surveillance for food borne diseases. The further reduction in spending comes after last year’s $624,000 funding cut for the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which is responsible for food safety and sanitation programs.
Eight staff positions were eliminated due to that budget cut, including four inspectors. It left just one inspector for Juneau’s 600 restaurant and food service establishments, two for Anchorage’s 550, and three for the 500 in Fairbanks. The remaining inspectors are serving convenience stores, seafood markets and processors, pools, spas, and tattoo parlors along with restaurants outside the urban areas.
Alaska has also been forced to shift its focus to high risk businesses, reducing inspections for the rest. They also stopped reviewing restaurant building plans or responding to complaints about barbers and beauty shops.
Owners are instead being required to read and sign applications indicating they are complying with state regulations. Kimberly Stryker, food safety and sanitation director for Alaska, says schools are no longer subjected to sanitation and safety inspections.
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