COLUMBIA, SC — New rules for restaurants and delis would ban some workers from handling food with their bare hands, require eateries to use nationally certified equipment and take other steps to better protect food from germs that can make diners sick, according to a plan advanced Thursday by the state health department.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control board agreed to seek public comment on whether to overhaul the states food regulations. Department staffers said they have the support of many restaurant owners. The rules would need approval from the Legislature.
Despite some questions about possible burdens on small restaurants, agency director Catherine Templeton said the changes are long overdue. The changes modernize South Carolinas outdated code, agency officials said.
Ultimately, its not about dinging the establishments, its about making sure the public is safe, Templeton told the board, noting that the rules will be vetted by the restaurant industry before they would become effective. The rules would be phased in over the next two years, according to plans. A public hearing is planned for Jan. 9.
Major changes include:
• No bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat food. That means many restaurant and deli workers will begin using gloves when preparing or handling food, although they also could use tongs or tissues.
• Lower cold-holding temperatures or higher hot-holding temperatures for food.
• More training for managers of restaurants to make them more knowledgeable about reducing the risks of food-borne illnesses
• Requiring national certification of equipment, such as dishwashers
Restaurant owners and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have collaborated with DHEC on the proposed new food rules, agency officials told the board.
DHEC board member Kenyon Wells said larger chain restaurants tell him theyre more prepared than small restaurants he has spoken with. He and board chairman Allen Amsler questioned whether small businesses might have trouble complying. Even so, Wells said he knows first-hand how improperly prepared food can cause illness. His wife once got sick from an undercooked meal, he said.
Weve got to have it, theres no doubt about it, Wells said.