BAXTER -- Executive Chef Howard Smith of Black Bear in Baxter tells employees to sing "Happy Birthday" while they wash their hands.
This is about how long a person who handles food for the public should wash their hands, says the Minnesota Department of Health.
Blake Nordin, Minnesota Department of Health inspector for Crow Wing County, recently inspected the Black Bear restaurant. The restaurant had no major violations in its kitchen, prep area, dishwashing area, bar and storage areas.
Nordin said when he does inspections he will write minor corrections down on his notebook. These type of violations are more for education or suggestions for the business owners. An item he suggested to Smith was to keep the fresh baked barbecue ribs on the top shelf of the refrigerator by the cooling fan to help cool the ribs. Nordin also suggested that the cooks should not cover the ribs with plastic wrap because the wrap will slow down the cooling.
Foods must be cooled from 140 degrees to 70 degrees within two hours and from 70 degrees to 41 degrees within an additional four hours.
The Black Bear's chicken wild rice soup was checked for temperature and it was 179 degrees and passed the state test. The soup must be over 140 degrees. When cooling the soup the restaurant uses an ice stir pack to conform with the state guideline.
Nordin suggested to Smith that the fresh brewed tea machine should be cleaned everyday. Smith said it is cleaned every other day and he also would like it to be cleaned out daily.
"It used to make me nervous (when the state inspector came)," said Smith. "But not anymore ... I want to know what I can do better.
"Ever since he (Nordin) has been here it has been a good working relationship. He helps me perform my job."
Nordin and LeeAnn Austin of the Minnesota Department of Health inspect food, beverage and lodging establishments in Crow Wing County. Out of 398 licensed establishments in the county, 304 of them were inspected last year.
Establishments are classified into three categories -- low, medium and high risk -- for inspections. Black Bear is a high risk. High risk is a restaurant or any establishment where food is manually handled, cooled, reheated or holding. High risk establishments are inspected once a year.
A medium risk establishment is inspected once every 18 months. Medium risk involves fast food places and places that make submarine sandwiches or pizza.
Low risk establishments include lodging resorts, hotels with pools and bars that serve frozen pizzas. The low risk places are inspected once every two years.
The state health department also inspect 240 establishments in the county that have their own water supply system. The department inspects any place that has a public water system that serves 25 or more people a day and operates more than 60 days.
Nordin said a majority of the inspections are unannounced. However, some are pre-arranged so the inspector can sit down with the business owner to discuss items in more detail, such as menu items or the operation of the business.
Nordin said the state's philosophy is to have a good relationship with the businesses. He said they then are more willing to comply with the state requirements and willing to listen to suggestions.
"For the most part the level of sanitation in establishments in the county is good," said Nordin. "We know what's going on and the owners know it's important that the food is safe and realize the health department is there to help."
Establishments are now required to have a certified food manager on duty. This person can train other employees about food safety and to increase the sanitation of food.
"We did a limited study on occurrences of violations in critical areas that cause food borne illnesses," said Nordin. "It happens less with a certified food manager than ones without one."
The study was from April to March 2001 and violations were down 19 percent when there was a certified food manager.
Violations in the county are usually taken care of within one or two times the inspector visits. When Nordin sees a violation he will write up an order to the business owner to correct.
Nordin said some minor violations, such as tiles deteriorating, may be expensive to fix and the business won't fix the problem right away. He said he'll visit the place again in six months. If the job is not completed he'll write another order and talk more seriously with the owner to fix the tiles.
Nordin, who has been with the state since 1994, has only seen one repeat violation that went to a penalty against a business. The state penalty can fine a business up to $10,000. A kitchen, the walls and ceiling had to be upgraded and the project was not getting done. The establishment was fined and the kitchen was upgraded.
Some of the minor violations Nordin sees are dirty floors, non-food contact surfaces are dirty or need work and a restroom door or the ventilation system are broken.
One of the major state health requirements is for ground beef to be 155 degrees for 15 seconds to avoid a food borne illness. Nordin will look at how a cook is preparing a hamburger and will ask the cook how he or she knows when to flip the hamburger as well as how they know when the food is done.
Nordin also looks at the restrooms in the establishments. He makes sure that the paper towels and other supplies are stocked and to make sure it is clean. The ventilation and structure are also looked at.
"We hear a couple complaints a year (on restrooms sanitation)," said Nordin. "But for the most part none are consistently bad."
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