15 Finds Out: Does health department need more food inspectors?

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – 15 Finds Out discovered last year the Allen County Health Department fell behind in finishing all the required routine inspections of food establishments because of a lot of staff turnover and long training periods.

Now the food division is at full staff, but is that enough? Six people make up the department: a director, an assistant director/plan reviewer and four inspectors. Those inspectors have a big job. The health department said there were 2,239 food establishments permits active in 2015.

“As we get out there and do inspections we’ll see where we’re at at the end of 2016.” Steve Schumm, Dir. Food & Consumer Protection

That would divide out to about 560 establishments per inspector, and after taking out weekends, holidays and time off, they’d have to do more than two routine inspections every work day to keep up. That’s not including places that require more than one routine inspection, follow-up inspections if violations are found, fairs, festivals, other pop-up places that need inspections and following up on complaints.

“Hopefully at full staff we can hit all the inspections and do follow ups as needed,” Steve Schumm, the director of food and consumer protection at the Fort Wayne Allen County Health Department, said.

When 15 Finds Out asked Schumm if the department needed more than four inspectors, he said it’s a possibility.

“That’s something we can take a look at in the future as we have this full staff and seeing if we can get all these done and then see if there’s a need for one or two or maybe a part-time person,” Schumm said.

Comparing Allen County’s staffing levels to other health departments around the state, inspectors here have a lot on their plates.

15 Finds Out asked the state health department for the number of food division staff and retail food establishments for all the counties in Indiana. The latest data available were staffing levels from 2014 and food establishment numbers from 2010. The staff numbers did not specify job titles or duties.

Click here to see all the data for all the counties.15FORestrntReview031716_Map2

Going through the numbers, of the counties with figures available, eleven had more than 300 retail food establishments per food protection staff member. Allen County had the second highest number of places per person at 446.5.

Some other large counties around the state also had lower ratios. Lake and Marion Counties both had more food establishments with 3,026 and 5,932 respectively, but they also had more food protection staffers. Lake County’s eight employees made for around 378 establishments per staff member and Marion County’s ratio was 269 establishments per employee.

Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters said, on the surface, those numbers are concerning, but they don’t necessarily mean Allen County needs more restaurant inspectors.

“There’s absolutely no question they’re doing the job that needs to be done in the community. I’ve worked with them enough to know that when there are issues, they don’t hesitate to close an operation down and that when there are things that need to be done they don’t hesitate to go back two or three times to ensure there is follow-up and things are being done to benefit the citizens of Allen County,” Peter said.

Peters agreed with Shumm in waiting to see how the department does after a year of being back at full staff.

“As we get out there and do inspections we’ll see where we’re at at the end of 2016,” Schumm said.

 

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