October 26, 2010
To Close or Not
to Close, That Is The Question...
In many of my blog entries, I expound upon the many dos and
don'ts in a food establishment, but what happens if misfortune
should befall your blessed food temple at no fault of your own?
I'm talking about things like your water heater failing, water
or power disruption, or sewage backup. Well-- for
starters, assess the extent of the problem and call your
friendly neighborhood health inspector. This is for two
reasons. For one, you are required by the Montana
Administrative Rule 37.110.206(7) to call the local health
authority and report the emergency; and two, and in my opinion
the more important reason of the two, to get advice on how to
keep your business and customers safe.
In many of the above events, you may be required to close, but
there are circumstances where you may be able to stay open by
modifying your operation. For instance, if you have a
limited water supply, or are unable to provide enough hot water
for hand washing and dish washing, you may be able to work with
your inspector to provide it by some other means. If a
feasible solution cannot be found however, you will have to
cease service until the problem is remedied.
This shouldn’t be a surprise to any operator, as the
importance of a potable water supply, both hot and cold is quite
obvious when one thinks about the role water plays in your daily
In the case of a power disruption, you will most likely need to
close. For one, you will have no power to your cooking and
holding equipment, making food preparation difficult, but think
about the other effects. Opening and closing the
refrigerators and freezers deplete the cold air inside putting
the foods inside at risk for temperature abuse, and again, your
hot water supply will be affected.
In the case of sewage backup, closure is a certainty.
Sewage carries many contaminants into the food facility that
have the potential to cause disease. In any case, the
health department can best advise you on what to do—how to
decontaminate the facility and what things to discard.
For more information on emergencies in food establishments, see
Emergency Preparedness resources.