Tighter food safety rules on the horizon in South Carolina

sfretwell@thestate.comOctober 10, 2013 

  • Restaurant inspection results

    Restaurant inspections are carried out by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control's Food Protection program. The State obtains data weekly through S.C. Freedom of Information Act requests.

— 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 state’s food regulations. Department staffers said they have the support of many restaurant owners. The rules would need approval from the Legislature.

VIEW: Current restaurant inspection database

Despite some questions about possible burdens on small restaurants, agency director Catherine Templeton said the changes are long overdue. The changes modernize South Carolina’s outdated code, agency officials said.

“Ultimately, it’s not about dinging the establishments, it’s 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 they’re 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.

“We’ve got to have it, there’s no doubt about it,” Wells said.

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service