Editor: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’
Editor’s Note: This article has been updated.
AUSTIN, Texas — The Austin City Council voted to remove a requirement that businesses pay for an outside inspection of their food preparation facilities.
The measure would also prohibit local governments from requiring a contractor to pay a fee to the state for such inspections, which are a major cost to the food services industry.
It was sponsored by council members Lisa Johnson, R-Austin, and Mike McLellan, D-Austin.
The bill passed in April by a vote of 2-1.
The Austin American-Statesman asked Johnson if the council would reconsider its position.
“I’m not sure what the next step would be,” Johnson said.
“The mayor has said, if it ain, we won’t do it.”
Council members had supported a similar proposal to require restaurants to pay for outside inspections by a private contractor.
The council members said they supported the idea of requiring businesses to have the inspection because they believe it’s important to keep the city’s food safety system in place.
The ordinance passed the council on a vote to eliminate the requirement.
It will go into effect July 1.
Johnson said she was happy the council voted to take the initiative and that it was important to provide oversight of food services.
“We have a very low rate of foodborne illness,” Johnson told the AP.
“I think the fact that we have to have that is a big issue for the people of Austin.
The city of Austin is a community and we have the highest rate of hospitalization of any city in the country.
So we want to make sure that we protect them from the illness.”
The city is now working with the Texas Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (TDSAS) to develop standards to ensure that all food preparation and delivery operations meet standards set by TDSAS and the Texas Commission on Food and Drug Administration.
Johnson said that the council also wants to establish a task force that would study the need for an independent inspection.
The task force could be composed of representatives from the city, county, and state, Johnson said, or members from outside the city.
The TDSAC has a policy that requires inspections by the same person or entities that perform food services for the city to be performed by a single person or entity.
The task force should recommend that the city implement a process to ensure the food safety inspection results of an independent contractor are consistent with those of a single, independent contractor, Johnson told The Associated Press.
The city currently has a contract with a third-party food service company to conduct the food service inspections.