Health Department Convenes Food Service Advisory Group

25 Attendees Discuss Important Industry Topics and Recognize World Salt Awareness Week

BROOKLYN – Twenty-five members of the food service industry representing restaurants, long-term care and assisted living facilities, schools, catering companies, farmers markets, non-profits, convenience stores, and community kitchens convened Monday, March 20, 2017 at a meeting of the Food Service Advisory Council coordinated by the Northeast District Department of Health (NDDH). The Council was formed by the NDDH Board of Health to assure that food service establishments have a voice in the policy-making process and to foster collaboration in creating safe and healthy food environments.

Attendees learned about a number of important public health issues related to the food service industry including emergency planning for business interruption, food service communications, employee training requirements, and healthy menu and recipe modifications for increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and reducing sodium through policy change at food service establishments.

“It was one of the best presentations I have attended on these topics,” commented attendee Diane Miller, of Fairvue Farms in Woodstock, CT. “NDDH staff and James Martin, Chef and Owner of 85 Main Restaurant in Putnam used the experience of a recent water main break to discuss the need for business interruption planning. It made it relevant to me. It was also clear that these folks know their stuff. It’s so important that we are all trained on these issues because safety in food service affects us all.”

NDDH Registered Sanitarian Lynette Swanson discussed power outages and water interruption. Food service operators received valuable tools and checklists to plan for, respond to, and recover from events that could disrupt business and hurt their bottom line.

Brittany Otto, NDDH Environmental Health Specialist, lead a presentation on essential employee training topics to assure compliance for safe food preparation and handling.

The meeting also coincided with the launch of World Salt Awareness Week, March 20-27, an international campaign conducted by the World Action on Salt and Health, based out of Queen Mary University in London, England. Eating too much sodium is a leading risk for high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend reducing daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg (approx. 1 teaspoon), with an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. On average, most Americans consume more than 3,400 mg of sodium each day. According to the American Heart Association, more than 75% of the sodium we eat comes from restaurant, prepackaged, and processed foods.

“Food service establishments must be sure their foods are safe, and we also described steps they could take to make their recipes and menu offerings healthier for consumers,” said NDDH Director of Health Susan Starkey. “Reducing salt and increasing fruit and vegetable offerings will attract customers looking for healthier options. Buying fresh produce from local farmers and farmers’ market vendors not only supports economic health and physical health; it can be an effective marketing tool for establishments.”

To increase fruit and vegetable consumption among consumers, NDDH and their HealthQuest Northeast Connecticut Coalition are encouraging community partnerships to establish more community gardens, farmers’ market locations, community supported agriculture programs, and placement of portable raised garden beds. Attendees received resource listings to procure locally sourced produce and farm products.

“Linking food service establishments to locally grown foods is an important initiative, said Linda Colangelo, NDDH Education and Communications Coordinator. “Healthier food choices combined with physical activity is the best recipe to reduce risk for a number of chronic diseases. We continue to receive very positive feedback about the meeting and are proud to have hosted such a rich discussion among those food service professionals in attendance. The best outcome we can all achieve is healthier, happier customers.”

For more information on any of these food service topics, visit www.nddh.org or contact NDDH at 860-774-7350.

For more information on salt and health, please visit www.cdc.gov/salt or www.worldactiononsalt.com @WASHSALT #LessSaltPlease