Food handling classes planned through city

The city of Big Spring is ready to lend a helping hand to potential and existing restaurateurs in the Big Spring area, as the municipality gets ready to offer a number of classes to prepare them for health and sanitation inspections.According to Big Spring Fire Marshal Carl Condray, a lack of resources for state inspectors has called for the city to step in and begin conducting inspections in the Crossroads area, with the responsibility falling to the local fire marshal's office.“Around the spring of 2008, the city of Big Spring realized there was a need for more frequent food establishment health inspections,” Condray said. “Responsibility had fallen to the state for such inspections and due to staffing limitations, it was noted that our restaurants were not being inspected with any regularity and the restaurateurs had no place to go for any regulatory assistance. The city decided to take over the regulatory role for these inspections and this practice continues to this date.“Investigators have been trained and are already in the field conducting these critical inspections. During these inspections, we have noticed a lack of knowledge among many employees of the regulations which govern the food establishments. Many don’t know where to turn to for training. We have also noticed a lack of food handler certification training, as required by the Texas Department of State Health Services. Since these certifications are good for five years, it appears many are falling due this year.”In an effort to educate local food vendors and restaurateurs, Condray said the city is planning to offer a number of classes that should help educate employees and management on state requirements.“Many options are available to food service employees and employers to receive this training,” Condray said. “Several online courses exist which may work into an employee’s schedule. However, we see an opportunity to bring more effective, hands-on training to the community by offering on-site classes within our community. Such classes would be offered by a registered sanitarian who has all the required credentials and experience to offer not only the training with a face-to-face methodology, but also the ability to conduct onsite testing for certifications.“Two different classes could potentially be offered, depending on community response. One class would provide attendees with in-depth training on the Texas Food Establishment Rules (TFER) — the regulations by which restaurants are graded — and provide them with their own copy of these standards. The other class would be inclusive of the first and be geared toward providing a higher level of training and leave the attendees who successfully complete the course with a Certified Food Handler certificate good for five years.”