I started my career in public health inspecting restaurants, motels and the like in the mid- 1980s. My area was right around here down toward South Mountain- and I inspected the cafeteria in the basement of the Executive Tower and the cafeteria that used to be on the 4th floor of the 1740 building. It doesn’t seem like that was 25 years ago- but life is funny that way.
Our core environmental health responsibilities include administering the statewide public health sanitation program for food safety, bottled water, hotels and motels, children’s camps, public schools, and public and semi-public swimming pools. We delegate the actual inspection work to the county health departments. Statewide, there are about 208 Sanitarians employed by the counties to inspect the restaurants and food stores in AZ.
We finished our 2012 statewide Annual Report last week. Last fiscal year the system completed about 64,000 food safety inspections among the 33,300 food establishments in AZ. The report gives us an annual benchmark about basic performance measures like inspections but also inspection distribution. For example, our statewide goal is to do 2 inspections per year at each food establishment… but we separate facilities into complex, moderate and limited categories with the goal of inspecting complex places more frequently than simple ones. That’s because the public health return on our time investment is higher in places with complex menus or that serve high-risk populations (like assisted living centers).