Health official: More ‘peace of mind’ with law

The state Health Department on Monday began to post new food safety color-coded placards in the windows of food establishments on Oahu.

The new system is part of an updated food safety code that was signed into law by Gov. Neil Abercrombie this year.

“Hawaii consumers will have more peace of mind about being protected from foodborne illnesses and other health hazards when they’re eating out this summer,” Gary Gill, deputy director of environmental health, said in a news release Monday. “The new food safety rules let consumers know which food establishments have violations and may cause some to think twice about eating at locations where concerns are not being addressed.”

Maui won’t be implementing the new placard system until late August or early September, said Patti Kitkowski, Maui District Office program chief, Monday. Her office is still in the process of notifying all of the county’s 1,600 food establishments of the new food safety code, she said.

The new system involves a color-coded placard system that must be visibly displayed in each food establishment. After inspection, green cards will be given to establishments with no more than one critical violation that must be corrected at the time of inspection; a yellow card will be used for two or more critical violations; and a red card will be used for places that need to be immediately closed because they pose an imminent health hazard to the community.

The code also calls for a new structure and increase in permit fees, which took effect in February. There are now 49 different categories of food establishments, and the average permit fee will be $200. (Previously, the average was $46.) The fees will help fund additional inspectors and program enhancements, such as Web-based infrastructure and online inspection results, the news release said.

Maui County currently has five inspectors on staff – four on Maui and one on Molokai. There are still three vacant inspector positions, though the positions have not yet been opened for recruitment, Kitkowski said.

All food establishments – which include restaurants, hotels, caterers, food warehouses, markets, convenience stores, lunch wagons, pushcarts and institutional kitchens for health care facilities, schools, day care centers and prisons – will need to comply with the new standards, the news release said.

Similar food safety codes are already established in other states across the nation, and the new law has been endorsed by the Hawaii Restaurant Association, the Health Department news release said.

* Eileen Chao can be reached at