A local Colorado health department has just completed its 10th year of trying to improve food safety by handing out some carrots.

The Jefferson County Health Department, serving the rolling Front Range suburbs located west of Denver, makes 3,500 food safety inspections a year and posts the results on its website.

But for the past decade, the department  has also given out its annual “Leader in Food Safety” award to one or more of the food outlets it regulates to recognize “commitment to proper food handing and preparation techniques.”

For 2010, the award went to three very local restaurants: The Arvada Villa Italian Restaurant in Arvada, Jus Cookin’s in Lakewood, and the Rocky Mountain Hog Roasters in Westminster.  

While the awards were officially made in September during National Food Safety and Education Month, the recognition did not stop there.   For example, the 50-year old Arvada Villa was called up last week for still more honors from the Arvada City Council.

The awards this year to three local restaurants stand in contrast to last year ,when a sole award went to the Bandimere Speedway located in Morrison, CO, and the year before that when the three restaurants from the Red Lobster chain shared in the honors.

In recognizing fewer than 20 operators during the 10-year history of the award, the Jefferson County Health Department has adhered to some specific criteria including:

  • No critical violations in a 12-month period involving food temperatures, cross contamination, and hand washing that have not been corrected as required.

  • A demonstrated commitment of food safety by reducing or eliminating critical violations.

  • Routine provision of an “Excellence in Food Safety” class or equivalent program for employees.

  • No documented cases of foodborne illness during the past 12 months.

“The Leader in Food Safety Award is our way of showing appreciation to the food service establishments in Jefferson County who go out of their way to ensure foodborne illness is not on the menu,” says Dave Hooker, Jefferson County’s food safety program supervisor.

The health department inspects about 1,900 restaurants in a county with more than a half million people, most of whom reside in the cities of Arvada, Lakewood, and Westminster.  Colorado annually experiences about 1.2 million cases of foodborne illnesses.