When a food service employee with Hepatitis A was found working at Rosa’s Restaurant and Catering in Hamilton, NJ, late last year, the incident quickly turned into a headache. The sprawling New Jersey township, which spans 40 square miles, had to set up a clinic at its Colonial Volunteer Fire Company and run a public education campaign to help residents decide if they needed to get inoculated because of exposure to the Rosa’s employee. hamiltontownship_406x250With that recent experience, the Hamilton Township Council earlier this week considered and ultimately rejected an ordinance that would have punished restaurants that fail repeated inspections with higher fines and forced temporary shutdowns. The rejected ordinance called for shutting down any restaurant for 72 hours if, in the previous two-year period, it had received four unsatisfactory grades. It also would have imposed a new $125 license fee on catering businesses. Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede said she wanted to sign the ordinance, but four of the five members of the Township Council voted to kill it instead. Rosa’s Restaurant received an unsatisfactory rating for multiple food safety violations last October, including the sort of inadequate provisions for hand-washing often associated with the spread of Hepatitis A when food handlers do not practice proper hygiene. In November, a Rosa employee was diagnosed with Hepatitis A. Three residents of the Hamilton area, all of whom had dined at Rosa’s when the infected worker was on duty, also came down with the infectious liver disease. The incident led to the introduction of the ordinance, but it did not prove popular with residents when it came up for a public hearing before the council vote to kill it on Tuesday. It sought to change the habits at 34 of the township’s 584 restaurants that failed food safety inspections last year on two or more occasions. Hamilton’s current law imposes a $250 fine against restaurants with two or more violations in a two-year period. The rejected ordinance would have upped those fines to $500 for a third occurrence and to $750 for the fourth. It also would have given township inspectors the authority to inspect any catering service doing business in Hamilton. Surrounding townships do not require outside catering firms to obtain licenses before doing business in those jurisdictions. During the hearing, one local resident called the proposed ordinance “an overreach.”