To the editors:
On Dec. 1, The Crimson published an article entitled “HUDS Health Violations Increase,” citing a trend in violations found during inspections conducted by the City of Cambridge Inspectional Services Department, the agency responsible for oversight of food safety in the City. The article presents an incomplete view of food safety, and I would like to put the findings cited in the article into a more balanced context.
Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) takes all violations seriously, focusing first on those that pose risks to student health or safety. All issues pertaining to the protection of diners are corrected immediately. I note that safety violations are either considered critical (those that could present a health or safety risk) or non-critical (e.g., housekeeping issues). My review of the inspection data indicates that there were fewer critical violations this fall than during a similar inspection last spring. For this reason, the title of the article is true in the sense that the inspector noted non-critical items (such as a mop not hung after use and a broken light on a salad bar), but misleading in the sense that these violations are not risk factors for food safety. In my experience, HUDS strives to improve their performance in all safety issues, and welcomes the City inspections to help improve their program.
Certified food safety experts in the Department of Environmental Health and Safety visit each dining facility at least twice per year to provide food safety training to HUDS. In 1998, with the full support of HUDS, we initiated a program of food protection management two years before it was required by law. Today, there are over 200 HUDS managers and staff who have passed a 12-hour course in food safety training, roughly five times the number required by law to be present in each facility. Managers check food preparation, handling and storage every day to ensure diner safety. These measures provide a level of food safety oversight that far exceeds that of a normal restaurant, and have resulted in an operation that compares very favorably with others in this regard.
Diners at HUDS should know that much is happening in the kitchen to ensure that their food is well-prepared and safe before it is offered to them. I hope that this letter provides a better understanding of the food safety program at Harvard. Bon appetite.
Dec. 6, 2004
The writer is director of Environmental Health and Safety for Harvard University Operation Services.