After recently shutting down three Oahu restaurants for food safety violations, the Hawaii State Department of Health is likely to require all food handlers at restaurants and other food establishments in the Aloha State to take a half-day food safety education class. This comes after the Makittii Hawaii restaurant in Honolulu was closed by state health inspectors on Friday, Nov. 6, 2015, for apparent temperature violations, inadequate cleaning practices, and the presence of insects and rodents. In addition, the buffet restaurant was fined $35,000. The health department stated that an investigation had been done Oct. 13 at Makittii Hawaii in response to an alleged foodborne incident. Inspectors issued a yellow placard to the buffet restaurant that same day. Four follow-up inspections revealed ongoing violations, including seafood and meat left out on the buffet line at room temperature with no time marking, according to the department. Hawaii food regulations adopted in February 2014 require buffet foods to be discarded after four hours if they are not kept above 135 degrees F or below 41 degrees F. Health department officials plan to visit Makittii Hawaii on Tuesday and do some food safety training with all staff, Peter Oshiro, environmental health program manager, told Food Safety News. “Hopefully they have learned something,” he said. Makittii Hawaii is the third restaurant on Oahu since early October to have its food permit temporarily suspended, operations closed down, and the premises posted with a red placard due to serious food safety violations. Previously, the Paalaa Kai Bakery in Waialua and Blue Water Seafood and Shrimp Market in the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu were closed for food safety violations and fined. Both of them have since passed health department reinspections and reopened. Oshiro said that while administrative changes such as mandating food safety training for all food handlers can be done without legislation, the department will be holding public hearings on each island during the next session of the Hawaii Legislature, which is scheduled to start on Jan. 20, 2016. “All we have to do is change our administrative rules, and we are going to do that this fall,” he said, adding that the state’s restaurant association and related industry groups will be consulted. “They are very comfortable. I’ve already hinted in the past that we would look at this,” he noted. The department has a food safety educator on staff who provides such training for free, Oshiro said. Hawaii’s color-coded placard system for restaurants, implemented in July 2014, has been focusing more attention on public health and food safety. According to the health department, its sanitation branch has completed more than 9,068 inspections statewide under the new program, issuing about 2,000 yellow placards to those having two or more critical violations.
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