Amid all the coronavirus pandemic restrictions, food service inspections from health workers continue in Eastern Jackson County, as many restaurants have tried to stay open with curbside and pick-up orders.
Inspectors aren’t making the routine visits to food establishments, though. Instead, with municipal employees trying to minimize interactions, inspections are done more as needed or when reports come in.
Initially, when the city of Independence declared a state of emergency two weeks ago, various departments continued to provide normal inspections following daily safety briefings. Three days later, with the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Eastern Jackson County, the city suspended routine inspections and shifted gears.
If citizens picking up food believe an inspection is warranted and file a complaint, the city or Jackson County Environmental Health can respond.
“If emergency inspections are needed, they will be conducted,” Independence spokesperson Meg Lewis said. “We are accepting citizen concerns just like any other time, and they’ll be evaluated and responded to accordingly. Staff is taking the proper (safety) protocol, and we’re still following up on reports and concerns.”
Normally, routine inspections for food establishments would be done one or three times a year, depending on the type of establishment. Releasing final inspection reports might be delayed some due to current staff shifts.
In Independence, citizens can report concerns via email, the “Action Center” on the city website or via the new city app “IndepNow.” The app had been scheduled for rollout in early April, but when the pandemic started the city pushed that rollout up a couple weeks.
“(The app) gives us more information and allows us to route it more accurately,” Lewis said.
The Jackson County’s Environmental Health Division conducts inspections across the county outside Independence and Kansas City. Its routine inspections would mean three or four times a year. Now, county spokesperson Marshanna Smith said, staff are responding to complaints, though last week they did fewer inspections, as staff worked more with restaurants on executive order guidelines regarding no dine-in service as a public health precaution.
Information to report food service health concerns in the county can be found at: www.jacksongov.org/442/Environmental-Health.