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Health Department Looking to Offer Classes to Help Restaurants Avoid Violating Town Policy

The Burlington Board of Health is looking to assist restaurants, primarily smaller establishments, from violating one of its own policies aimed at ensuring food safety.

The issue arose at the latest board meeting when there was a discussion about a restaurant that had been found to be in violation of the town policy stating that all restaurants in town must have a certified food protection manager present in the establishment during all hours it is open. This is more stringent than the state requirement that states all establishments must have that type of manager on staff at all times but not necessarily there from open to close.

Health Agent Marlene Johnson said this requirement is not difficult for the larger chain restaurants or those owned by a large restaurant group. Instead, it is often the small restaurants and coffee shops, who have difficulty hiring staff and especially those with enough experience to be certified, who are the ones most often found violating the policy.

Still, Board Chair Dr. Ed Weiner said he believes Burlington’s policy is justified and should not be changed.

“People come here from all over the world and I want to ensure anyone can eat anywhere in this community and having a certified individual that ensures that the food is appropriate, that’s why we put it into our policies,” he said.

Board Vice-Chair David McSweeney said he agreed

“I believe we are a first class community that has first class establishments because of the policies and rigors on how we operate,” he said. “However, I know it’s a struggle today because help is hard to find but unfortunately every industry has hurdles they have to overcome. Certainly we have the policy in place for a reason and we should be enforcing it.”

Johnson said one way the department is looking to help restaurants is that she is looking to become certified to provide training to become certified food protection manager and to proctor the final test.

“I want to be able to offer the class at least twice a year to employees that work in Burlington and we want to target the restaurants that have had issues,” she said.