Proposed Bill Adds More Scrutiny to Dirty Restaurants

(Source: South Florida Business Journal)

New bills under consideration by the Florida Legislature would ease the regulatory burden for restaurants statewide that have a good record with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

According to the bills (HB-795 and SB-842), the department’s Division of Hotels and Restaurants will be permitted to adopt rules for a risk-based inspection process for all licensed food service businesses.

Essentially, the bill will allow regulators to focus on establishments that pose a higher risk to the public, effectively reducing the regulatory burden for businesses that have a positive compliance history with the department.

State Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-St. Cloud, and state Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, sponsored the bill.

“The inspection process won’t change,” said Sandi Poreda, director of communications for the DBPR. “The forms will be the same and the food code won’t change. Instead, it’ll be the frequency at which the callbacks happen. Our inspectors will be freed up to check back with those restaurants that pose a higher risk to the public.”

If the legislation passes, the department will be able to use its 186 state inspectors to focus on repeat offenders by conducting more unannounced inspections.

The department normally performs two unannounced inspections a year on the state’s 45,000 licensed food establishments.

The department also keeps track of establishments that did not have any sanitation or safety violations within the past year. During the week of March 18, 35 restaurants were on the list – the highest amount so far this year, Poreda said.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association supports the bill’s push for risk-based inspections, vice president Geoff Luebkemann said.

“If a place that has proven over the course of how many inspections, and they establish that they get it and are executing it, then they earn a lower level of scrutiny,” he said. “The FRLA has been on the record of supporting a robust and effective inspection system. One bad foodborne illness outbreak hurt the entire industry, and not just the business.”

The House bill has passed the Business and Professional Regulation Subcommittee and will head next to the Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. The Senate bill has passed the Regulated Industries Committee and will head next to the General Government Appropriates Subcommittee.

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