On Monday, Louisiana officials said that more people could be looking at greater exposure to illnesses borne from food if, according to the Goveerner’s 2017 budget proposal, its lawmakers approve of a provision that allows for fewer inspections of retail joints in the food industry. Under the new plans of Gov. John Bel Edward’s, DHH Deputy Secretary Michelle Alletto says that the State’s Department of Health and Hospitals is proposing a possible cutback in the sanitation staff of up to 16 members. A truncation of 16 members would mark a 11% decrease in the current 145 sanitarian workers on the field inspecting grocery stores, restaurants, and other retail outlets selling food on a day to day basis.
According to the DHH, the impact of such a cutback would be 26% fewer inspections whichin real numbers would be more than 20,700 fewer inspections. With a decrease in routine inspections, the result will be likely an increase in the number of unchecked food handling practices which would, in turn, lead to a surge in hospital visits for food related problems for civilians both local and visitors. Sanitary inspectors also conduct premise, sewage and waterway inspections, all which will be a great burden if the cutback is sanctioned officially.
For now, the cutback on staff is a go-ahead, along with other health-related services that will suffer as much. For now, food inspections are meant for cuts with other health services. More than a thousand rood outlets and restaurants are inspected annually or biannually across Louisiana, and that number is sure to fall in the new financial year. People in the food industry are not pleased with the setback either. John Fury, who runs a family-owned restaurant in Metairie and Randy LeBlanc, the operations officer for LeBlanc’s Food Stores, calls the inspections necessary and good for the business what with the safety level of food being so important. He added that the inspectors not only look for problems, but show them new ideas for handling and storing food.