Restaurant owners in Seattle’s International District met with Seattle & King County health inspectors at Phnom Penh Noodle House on April 3 in an effort to improve communication and establish cultural awareness for inspectors newly assigned to the neighborhood.

The meeting was created after a conversation between Ben Grace, program director of the Chinatown International District Business Improvement Area (CIDBIA), and Becky Elias of Public Health-Seattle & King County. Grace had suggested that whenever there are new inspectors assigned to the International District, they should be introduced to restaurant owners.

“We wanted to make sure the new inspectors had a good cultural awareness of these restaurants,” Grace said. “When you bring in new inspectors, they have to have an understanding and awareness of the cultural nuances of our neighborhood.”

Grace said that while inspectors may be used to working with more western style restaurants in other parts of the city, they may not be aware of the cultural differences in the International District. Many restaurant owners do not speak English as a first language and may have difficulties communicating with inspectors, he said.

Food establishments that sell or serve food to the public must get an annual permit and be inspected by Public Health-Seattle & King County. Most establishments have two unannounced inspections per year. The purpose of the inspections is to assure that the food is being handled properly from preparation through serving. Inspectors observe kitchen workers’ food handling practices, assure equipment is working properly, take food temperatures, inspect refrigerators and storage areas, assure water temperatures, and correct level and use of sanitizers. Any problem found is written up, and the manager is taught the correct procedure immediately, according to the public health department.

The April 3 meeting included Grace, Elias, three health inspectors (two newly assigned to the neighborhood), and owners of several restaurants in the International District.

Restaurant owners suggested ways to improve communication and get assistance. They recommended that it become a normal practice for inspectors to introduce themselves when they are newly assigned to the neighborhood.

Restaurant owners also said they had outdated equipment stored on their property that they needed help getting rid of—things like refrigerator units and metal storage.

In response to these concerns, an event was organized by Public Health-Seattle & King County and sponsored by CIDBIA to help restaurants get their old equipment and appliances hauled away. The event takes place Wednesday, April 23 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the 6th Ave S. and S. King St parking lot in the southwest corner.

“It’s an opportunity to remove old restaurant equipment and unused appliances,” Elias said.

At the meeting, restaurant owners also asked for more food safety and education opportunities. While many food service establishments will automatically receive one special educational session on food safety annually, any restaurant may request a special educational session.

“If a restaurant would like us to come in and provide a food safety lesson with their staff, we’re open to that,” Elias said. “We’re happy to have more community conversations.”

Free Haul Away Event happens Wednesday, April 23 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at 6th Ave S. and S. King St parking lot in the southwest corner. Look for 1 Green Planet Truck. Visit 1greenplanet.com for a full recycle list. For more information, call (206) 263-9566 or visit www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/ehs/foodsafety.

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