The State of Hawaii has enacted new food safety rules a year after the state’s largest-ever outbreak of Hepatitis A linked to imported scallops infected about 300 and exposed hundreds more.
As of Saturday, Sept. 7, the Hawaii Department of Health requires all “food establishments” to have at least one “person in charge” who possesses a food handlers education certificate present at all times the business is preparing and serving food.
Food handler certification is offered in Hawaii both in traditional classes and online by a multitude of sources. The training and subsequent test typically cost $0-$15 and take less than two hours to finish.
“This will ensure a minimum baseline of food safety knowledge for all facility owners and managers,” according to a news release from the Hawaii Department of Health.
Although the new rule has gone into effect, businesses will have a year to comply with the certification requirement.
Another major revision to Hawaii’s food safety regulations is the state’s full adoption of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) 2013 Model Food Code. This will tie the state’s food safety standards to the most recent scientific studies on food safety, the Hawaii Department of Health said.
Hawaii’s overhaul of food safety regulations comes in response to an outbreak of Hepatitis A linked to frozen raw scallops imported from the Philippines and served by the Genki Sushi chain of fast-food sushi restaurants.
The outbreak began June 10, 2016, and continued to Oct. 9. There were 292 confirmed cases of Hepatitis A infection linked to the outbreak, including two deaths.
The hepatitis A virus causes the liver to swell and prevents it from functioning properly. Symptoms include fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and fever. Some people may also experience joint or muscle pain, diarrhea, vomiting, dark urine, itching, weight loss, or yellow skin and eyes.
The virus is highly contagious and extremely hardy. It is able to survive freezing temperatures as well as the body’s highly acidic digestive tract. Hepatitis A can also survive outside of the body for months, allowing it to be widely spread from its original source.
While the infection and resulting symptoms normally go away on their own, in some cases the disease can lead to liver failure and death.