October 1, 2008
Kansas Department of Agriculture
(785) 296-2653 phone
State food safety inspection duties now under one roof
TOPEKA - When provisions of Senate Bill 584 became law Oct. 1, all food safety and lodging inspection duties became the responsibility of a single agency -- the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
Previously, food safety was a responsibility shared by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Environment. When the Legislature passed Senate Bill 584 earlier this year, it moved food safety and lodging inspection jurisdiction from the health department to the Department of Agriculture.
"Being responsible for food safety all along the food production, processing, transport, preparation and retail continuum is a responsibility we don't take lightly," said Adrian Polansky, secretary of the Department of Agriculture. "We eagerly accept our new duties and view this change as an opportunity to reaffirm and expand on our commitment to ensuring safe food for all consumers."
The provisions of Senate Bill 584 required that 38 positions transfer to the Department of Agriculture from the Department of Health and Environment on Oct. 1. Employees who fill those positions moved Sept. 22, a little ahead of schedule, to coincide with a natural break in the pay cycle.
Before the transfer, inspectors were cross-trained to conduct inspections typically carried out by the Department of Agriculture. The Department of Agriculture also arranged for several of the transferring employees to work from home, eliminating the need for them to drive to district offices to do paperwork. Cross-trained employees were assigned smaller territories in line with their expanded inspection duties.
Having food safety duties under one roof also makes it possible to record food safety inspection data in a single database using a common platform. The Department of Agriculture also expanded its food safety database to accept lodging inspection results.
Inspectors transferring to the Department of Agriculture were given tablet computers loaded with software to allow them to electronically record results while they are conducting an inspection. This eliminates the need for paper records and separate data entry.
Seizing on the transition as an opportunity to standardize how all food safety inspection data are recorded, the Department of Agriculture also provided the software to county health departments that conduct inspections under contracts with the department. The counties are Douglas, Geary, Johnson, Lyon, Reno, Riley, Saline and Sedgwick.
Electronic food safety inspection reports are available to the public from the Kansas Department of Agriculture website at www.ksda.gov/food_safety/. Kansas Department of Health and Environment restaurant inspections dated before Oct. 1, 2008, will continue to be available from the heath department's website at www.ksfoodsafety.org through January 2010.
What isn't changed by the transfer is how foodborne illnesses are reported. Anyone who suspects he or she has contracted an illness from a food source should contact their personal physician or their local health department. Foodborne illness clusters are investigated by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's office of epidemiology.
"Our inspectors will work hand-in-hand with the state epidemiologist's office to help trace, contain and eliminate sources of contaminated food," Polansky said.
Polansky encouraged consumers with general food safety concerns to report them to the Department of Agriculture online at http://ksda.gov/food_safety/open_records/ or by calling (785) 296-5600 or (785) 296-7430.
The Department of Agriculture's new food safety and lodging responsibilities expand on their existing areas of jurisdiction.
In 2004, Governor Kathleen Sebelius issued Executive Reorganization Order 32, which was followed by Senate Bill 296, transferring certain food safety functions to the Department of Agriculture from the Department of Health Environment. Among the transferred functions were inspections of retail food stores, food service establishments in retail food stores, food processing plants, vending machines and ice cream trucks. Six full-time positions transferred with those duties.
Before 2004, the Department of Agriculture was responsible for food safety involving eggs, milk and dairy products from the farm to consumer, and meat and poultry from state-licensed facilities.