Newtown has long been known as a community where residents and visitors alike can always find great food.
From ready-to-eat dishes waiting in steaming trays and service cabinets at local markets and the delis, to convenience stores and pizza places where grinders, wraps, breakfast sandwiches, and slices provide a tasty, easy to carry repast, and even within the exploding number of newer fine and full-service restaurants joining veteran establishments, the presence of so many eateries virtually guarantees peckish consumers will never go hungry — even if they just have just a couple of bucks in their pocket.
Even institutional settings like Nunnawauk Meadows, Maplewood at Newtown, Newtown United Methodist Church, and our many schools serve up tasty fare to their constituents on a daily or regular basis.
But with every bite also comes the potential of contracting a variety of foodborne illnesses.
According to the Connecticut Health I-Team, Connecticut registered the highest total number of foodborne illness outbreaks in New England between 2005 and 2014.
For five of those ten years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Connecticut reported more single outbreaks than any other New England state; for eight years, its outbreak count exceeded that of its more populous neighbor, Massachusetts; and for nine of those years, it topped New Jersey.
The data show that norovirus, salmonella, and E coli were the top three illness-causing offenders in Connecticut, with outbreaks most commonly linked to contaminated foods prepared at restaurants and in private homes, and, to a lesser degree, at banquet facilities and caterers.
Less commonly, outbreaks also occurred at colleges, camps, and nursing facilities.
So on the front lines in the establishments where we sometimes dine every day in Newtown, who is charged with inspecting and ensuring the ingredients, the serving practices, and the businesses themselves are maintaining the safest possible standards?
The answer is, the Newtown Health District, and to a greater degree its Food Service Inspector Suzette LeBlanc, who works with other trained district staffers, when required, completing inspections.
Besides overseeing Newtown’s many food service locations, this team of health professionals also handles similar duties at public gatherings, carnivals, festivals, and other events throughout the year.
Newtown Health District is fortunate to have a well-qualified staff to support its food protection program, and shares a mutual commitment with local purveyors to keep the food we consume in Newtown safe.
The local health district is currently enforcing the Connecticut Public Health Code. Residents can visit the municipal website to view the latest restaurant inspection scores.
In in the coming months, however, those numerical scores and the means by which they are calculated are going to transition to a new FDA Food Code system. The Newtown Bee will serve up more details as this new code is rolled out locally.
While the way our local guardians of food safety evaluate the prepared food we enjoy from local providers is changing, we trust that Newtown Health District will continue to ensure residents can safely satiate their huger without the unpleasant and sometimes dangerous aftereffects of a foodborne illness.
This week’s editorial was contributed by Associate Editor John Voket.