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Health & Medical

The importance of food sanitation


Whether a restaurant, food truck, school or corporate cafeteria, food sanitation is of critical importance when it comes to public health.

“The mission of the Whiteside County Public Health Department is to prevent disease, and in the Environmental Health Program our primary objective is to prevent foodborne or waterborne illness,” said Director of Environmental Health Gene Johnston. “The way to do that is through the permitting and inspection process in an establishment that sells food and drink.”

That involves practices such as using commercial refrigeration and designated sinks for certain activities, having a means of sanitizing equipment and dishware and using surfaces that are bright, durable and easily cleanable, added Johnston. Another requirement is restricting traffic through the food preparation area to minimize the contamination of food and assure that potentially hazardous foods are either kept cold or hot.

“Probably, just as important, if not more important, is that all food handlers have to be educated in safe food handling,” said Johnston. “To ensure that they are competent in food handling, they have to be certified.”

There are different degrees of certification, Johnston noted.  A manager’s training is more extensive than a part-time food preparers, busboy or even a waitress. Once certified, they understand the importance of keeping hands clean, not working when sick, cross-contamination and more. The Whiteside County Health Department also inspects food establishments to verify that the establishment and staff are complying with all food safety rules.

Local establishments adopt the Illinois Food Sanitation Code.  Additionally, the risk category the establishments fall into dictates how many inspections they undergo per year, typically from one to three.

Beth Fiorini, Public Health Administrator, added, “Whiteside County has had several foodborne outbreaks in the past year caused specifically by food preparers/handlers not washing their hands properly.  In several cases people were very ill and hospitalized. Food regulations are an important preventative tool to keep county residents free from disease.”

For more questions about food regulations and how to start up a food establishment that is properly licensed and ready to serve the public, call 815-772-7411 ext. 108 or 105.

Whiteside County Health Department

Environmental Department: 18929 Lincoln Road, Morrison, IL 61270

Phone: 815.772.7411  

Rock Falls Office: 1300 W. 2nd St, Rock Falls, IL 61071

Phone: 815.626.2230