By EDITH ZHOU
Capital News Service
LANSING – With the holidays around the corner, nobody wants their festivities ruined by poisoned food.
The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has a lunched an online system that enables consumers to easily access inspection results from more than 19,000 groceries and other retail food establishments.
MiSafe gives consumers access to inspection results for grocery and convenience stores, including violations since September 2011. The website is www.michigan.gov/foodsafety.
Violations are issued for problems such as post-dated foods that, if not resolved, may lead to foodborne illness, food contamination or an environmental health hazard.
According to the department, about 7,000 users visited the site in the first few weeks.
Jennifer Holton, director of communications for the department, said that the purpose of the MiSafe website is to offer greater transparency about inspections.
However, she warned that “just because an establishment may have been cited in an inspection does not mean they are a bad establishment. Generally the issue is corrected while the inspector is in the store.”
Linda Gobler, the president of Michigan Grocers Association, said the system is useful.
“It’s good to have all this information available to the public, and customers can choose the store based on the reports online,” she said.
Restaurants are inspected by Michigan’s 45 local health agencies, and reports for them are not included on the new state website.
Peggy French of the Allegan County Health Department said her department already posts its restaurant inspection reports online.
French said that she hopes the new state system will make customers more knowledgeable and that the businesses will perform better on food safety.
Routine state inspections are typically conducted on a six, 12- or 18-month schedule, depending on the type and complexity of the food handling at the establishment.
The department implemented the state’s updated Food Law to improve food safety practices in October.
Holton said the new law adopts federal and state safety codes, and is based on the best current food science.
Gobler said, “Because the new law is a mix of different codes and newest food science, it will help grocers produce, transport and store their products in the best way or standard.”
Gobler said food safety is important for everyone. “Our food retailers are very concerned about it and it is also important for the retailers to build public trust that their food is safe.”
Holton said that food safety is a team effort and takes the work of state, federal and local officials, as well as of the companies and the consumers.
“Food safety is the department’s number-one priority. We work with the state’s processors, producers and retail food establishments to make sure they are adhering to state and federal food safety laws and guidelines from farm to fork,” she said.
By EDITH ZHOU