City of Amarillo updates food inspection policy for the first time in 17 years

City of Amarillo updates food inspection policy for the first time in 17 years (Photo by Kendra Hall ABC 7).

An update to food establishment inspections was passed by Amarillo City Council. Some of these changes may help grow the restaurant business in the area.

This inspection policy has not been changed in 17 years, so the city's Environmental Health Department says it is long overdue.

It has taken the department about a year and a half to work on this update. There are several changes that will affect the industry and the consumer.

There are five major changes that the Environmental Health Department made. Part of the update includes new policy for food trucks, as the interest grows.

"I think it's absolutely safe to say that you're going to see a lot more food trucks in town and you're going to have a lot more fun and interesting choices," said Shaun May, Environmental Health Director.

Food trucks will no longer have to be connected to a restaurant building, but they do still have to have a service center for cleaning.

May says this will likely bring more food trucks to the area.

Anther big part is accountability. Currently if a restaurant fails its inspection, they pay a fine for a re-inspection fee. Some establishments fail several times with no consequence. That is changing.

"If we go in, outside of these imminent issues, if you fail, you have 24 hours to make corrections to the most critical violations," said May. "If you do not make those corrections within 24 hours of the most critical violations, then we will close you until you do so."

The way restaurants are graded is changing too. They will start giving out different grades and posting plaques inside each establishment with the grade.

"I don't have a business without them," said Jessica Higgins, Owner of Girasol Cafe. "If we don't follow safety guidelines and rules, there's no sense in being open. The last thing I would want to do as a business owner here in this town is contaminate or make ill one of my customers."

Higgins says this new way of grading will be a lot easier for the customers to understand what they mean.

This update also allows dogs on restaurant patios. Higgins says this will be good for her business because they are about to open a patio.

"We'll have a petio patio and it will be kind of nice," said Higgins. "I'm excited about that."

May says he is excited for these changes and hopes it will grow Amarillo's restaurant business in the right direction.

"This is a fun opportunity and an exciting opportunity where we can maybe fine tune some of our requirements instead of this notion that opportunities are going away, the reality is that it's creating new opportunities," said May.

Another update is to what they call "charity feeding." Prior to these updates, feeding groups like the homeless community was a violation.

Now it is allowed, but the city just asks if someone is feeding more than five people to let the Environmental Health Department know.

They also recommend getting a food handler's license.

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