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Mpls. health inspectors see OT due to vendors, festivals

Posted by: Eric Roper Updated: June 2, 2014 - 5:39 PM

The MLB All-Star Game and increased oversight over festivals are forcing Minneapolis food inspectors to work more overtime than usual this year.

The health department’s 16 food inspectors hope to reach all of the approximately 1,000 food vendors who set up shop at events throughout the year – last year they inspected only about 25 percent. They will also need to do extra work to ensure food safety during events surrounding the All-Star game this July.

In addition to overtime, the health department plans to hire a temporary staffer to help review plans for the new Vikings stadium and many new restaurants opening across the city.

The festival vendors, which do not include food trucks, are a particular priority following the 2013 salmonella outbreak at an Ecuadorian Independence Day which sickened 119 people. It was the second-largest food-borne illness outbreak in state history, according to a staff report.

“We did not inspect that event, and in retrospect that was a real problem,” said Dan Huff, the city’s director of environmental health.

Festivals, ranging from block parties to the Aquatennial, are particularly risky place for food-borne illnesses, Huff said. “They’re not in a prepared kitchen, they’re outdoors, there’s not plumbing right available so you have to have hand washing facilities brought in,” he said.

The cost of the extra workload, expected to be between $85,000 and $95,000 will likely be made up by fees for the additional inspections, staff said Monday. The city charges $87 for a short-term food permit.

Restaurants and food trucks are inspected annually. But plans for new construction must be also reviewed and inspected by city staff, who are already keeping up with a thriving restaurant economy.

“Business is booming in Minneapolis,” Huff said. “And that’s a great problem to have. But it’s a really big workload.”

The Vikings stadium will bring 150 to 180 plans that will need to be reviewed, Huff said, increasing the workload by about 40 percent. Only a specialist can do this work, so they must hire someone with experience and training.

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