Food safety inspectors in Hawaii are working with restaurants statewide on compliance after revising the acceptable hot and cold holding temperatures and adopting a color-coded placard system in 2014. There have been occasional problems, such as when health inspectors recently closed down two Oahu restaurants, in part for temperature violations, and they have issued more than 2,000 yellow placards to those having two or more critical violations. However, 95 percent of restaurants in the Aloha State are in compliance and are sporting a green placard, meaning that they immediately corrected any violations found at their most recent inspection, according to the Hawaii State Department of Health. The changes, adopted in February 2014, require food establishments to keep potentially hazardous foods at 41 degrees F or lower for cold foods and 135 degrees F or higher for hot foods. (The previous lower limit had been 45 degrees F, while the previous higher limit was 140 degrees F.) The department’s food safety guidelines note that these potentially hazardous foods include meats, seafood, eggs, dairy products, cooked rice, cooked beans, cooked pasta, cooked vegetables, tofu, cut melon, sprouts, and garlic in oil. Peter Oshiro, the department’s environmental health program manager, said that the changes were prompted by research showing the dangers of keeping foods at temperatures above 41 degrees F. “Because of an increase nationwide of incidences in Listeria, it prompted the regulators to use science to control it, and what the science says is that Listeria has a difficult time growing below temperatures of 41 degrees Fahrenheit,” he said. A few restaurants have had problems meeting the new requirements. Earlier this month, the Paalaa Kai Bakery in Waialua, Oahu, was closed down after receiving a red placard for “chronic temperature violations.” A week later, the bakery was fined $22,000, including $10,000 for allegedly reopening the day after the shutdown and selling food items anyway. According to local news reports, the bakery had ordered new refrigeration equipment from the mainland and planned to install it this week with an eye toward reopening as soon as possible. That will require passing a follow-up inspection from state health department inspectors. On Oct. 16, the Blue Water Shrimp and Seafood Market in Honolulu’s Ala Moana Shopping Center was shuttered after food safety inspectors found “multiple violations of temperature requirements for holding perishable foods.” The market also received a $9,000 penalty fee from the department. Blue Water Shrimp reopened Oct. 20 after passing a follow-up inspection from the state health department. “Putting up a placard is very counter-productive and is always our last choice,” Oshiro told Food Safety News. “We always bring them into a meeting face to face and talk to them about what they need to do about the problem.” The state health department’s placarding system for food establishments began on July 21, 2014, and since that time, its sanitation branch has completed more than 9,068 inspections statewide under the new program, according to the department. “The vast majority of food establishments in Hawaii are in compliance, meet all health requirements and have their green placard displayed,” the health department stated.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)