The Youngstown City Health Department faces possible loss of its food- service operation inspection program if corrective action is not taken, according to state health officials.
Based on a regularly scheduled survey of the food service operation in September, Ohio Department of Health cited the health department for not inspecting some of the city’s 500 to 600 food establishments, including several on the Youngstown State University campus, as often as required.
The state health department inspects local health food-service programs every three years. The last inspection was in 2009, said Tessie Pollock, ODH spokeswoman.
The Jambar, YSU’s student newspaper, reported this week the city health department had, before Oct. 22, failed to inspect campus eateries every 15 months as required by state law over a period of several years.
In its survey, the state health department cited major deficiencies in the food service program and said if corrections are not made by March 1, a “proposal for disapproval” would be initiated that could lead to the city health department losing its authority to license and inspect food establishments.
Among several minor findings, the survey reported that 13 of 81 food service operations were missing the proper required number of inspections, and there were also missing vending inspections.
Pollock said ODH’s main goal is to help the local health district come back into compliance.
To that end, the city health department is required to submit to the state a corrective action plan within 45 days after receipt of the survey results, which was Oct. 22.
The department is already working on that plan and expects to present it to the city health board at its meeting on the first Monday in December, said Erin Bishop, acting health commissioner.
Bishop said she met Wednesday to discuss the matter with Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone, who is also health board president.
“The mayor wanted to make sure we develop an action plan and to ensure food establishment inspections are completed in a timely manner,” she said.
In addition, Bishop said she has asked ODH to analyze the number of food- service establishments licensed in Youngstown and the number of licensed sanitarians in the city health department.
“In perfect world, we would have a director plus four licensed sanitarians, one for each quadrant of the city. Right now we have a director, Cicero Davis, and three sanitarians, one of whom is retiring at the end of November. We are short of staff and we’re hoping the position is filled by city council,” she added.
Bishop, who was not with the health department in 2007, 2008 and 2009 when inspections were not performed, said the department has never received a complaint about a food operation on the YSU campus.
And, she said, when they were inspected earlier in October, no problems were found.