Greenfield’s health leaders mull federal food inspection program

The Greenfield Health Department offices at 20 Sanderson St. in Greenfield.

The Greenfield Health Department offices at 20 Sanderson St. in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ


Staff Writer

Published: 04-02-2024 1:21 PM

Modified: 04-02-2024 7:36 PM

GREENFIELD — The city’s new public health officials intend to further research an idea floated at a recent Board of Health meeting that would align the city’s inspection system with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program.

The federal program — a national standard for risk-based food safety, inspection and enforcement — bases the number of annual inspections that community’s food establishments must pass on a risk-level category associated with each business. Stores that only sell pre-packaged food, for instance, would be subject to fewer annual inspections than those that handle and prepare raw meats.

“It would put the lower-risk [businesses] just serving coffee, eggs, pre-packaged meals, to once-a-year inspections, and then places that are actively serving the public with fresh food and cooking on site will be moved to two inspections a year,” said Michael Theroux, who took over as health director on March 18.

Theroux noted that the Board of Health only held a preliminary discussion on the federal program, adding that since state law requires municipalities to inspect food establishments twice each year, participating in the program could put Greenfield at risk of non-compliance with state law, and the idea requires more discussion and research.

According to Board of Health Chairman Glen Ayers, the city pursued the federal program for safe food handling and inspection about 10 years ago alongside about 12 other Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) towns. He said the program fell by the wayside amid frequent leadership changes.

“We had a lot of turnover over the last 10 years or so in public health here in Greenfield, and some of these things just didn’t get carried along. They got abandoned or just forgotten, so I’m interested in getting back into this framework,” explained Ayers, who became chairman of the board in February. “What I’d like to do is build community confidence in the food inspection program, rather than highlight individual situations. … When public health is done properly, nobody notices.

“When we just focus on violations, or the restaurants that we have to close down, that sends an opposite message,” Ayers added. “We have the situation under control and we want to make sure that we’re putting our efforts and using our funding on whatever will bring us the best results.”

When he served as the FRCOG regional health agent, Ayers said the council was awarded $65,000 a year for five years to improve municipalities’ food inspection and education programs. He said that Theroux’s “extensive background in food safety” will put the city in good hands.

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