Food safety practices dialed up as Hawaii eateries scramble to fill takeout orders

Health officials recommend wearing a mask when picking up your takeout food.
Health officials recommend wearing a mask when picking up your takeout food.(Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Apr. 9, 2020 at 6:55 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to force changes to everyday life, dining out has become a thing of the past ― at least temporarily.

So local restaurants are pivoting, by offering delivery, takeout, and curbside pick-ups during the unprecedented time.

As takeout orders across the state continue to rise, health officials are adjusting their normal practices in an effort to make sure food and handling continues to operate up to the Department of Health safety standards.

Peter Oshiro is an Environmental Health Program Manager. He was put in charge of the statewide colored placard program for food service businesses that was established in 2014.

Oshiro says existing safety practices that restaurants have already been subjected to adhere to is helping to make the transition to the takeout model very smooth.

“For the food establishment industry, they’re really is no change at all,” said Oshiro. “The virus itself is not known to be spread through any food-borne admission or through food service. That whole placard program is focused on preventing communal disease transmission.”

As local residents continue to grab-and-go in an effort to support local restaurants, personal hygiene of the employees who are taking the orders and making the food is vital.

“They have to wash their hands frequently and make sure that their employees are well,” said Oshiro. “They have to exclude any employees that are showing any ill symptoms, regardless if it’s COVID-19 related or gastrointestinal related.”

Oshiro says any customers picking up food are encouraged to wear masks.

“It provides customers with a good sense of security,” said Oshiro. "The only people that have to be wearing gloves are the ones that are going to touch food.

Although Oshiro and many on his staff are currently working remotely, they are still maintaining relationships with restaurant owners to ensure both the staff and public are being kept safe.

“All the general complaints that are coming in we are handling remotely," said Oshiro.

"We will call the restaurants to tell them someone, saw your employees not wash their hands properly an we will discuss it with the operators, an inform them of what their proper procedure are -- an that has worked really well so far.”

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