Columbus Public Health has re-established the Food Protection Advisory Board and has broadened its composition in the process.
The 20-member group, which met for the first time Nov. 8, includes not only restaurateurs, but also members of area commissions, industry professionals and food-service educators.
“I think it will broaden perspectives at the table,” said Dr. Teresa Long, the city’s health commissioner. “We think it’s a stronger model.”
It is expected to strengthen communication systems that already are in place, said Jose Rodriguez, spokesman for the health agency.
For example, in the event of an outbreak of a food-borne illness, board members can rapidly share information with each other and others in the industry, Rodriguez said.
Because of some staffing changes at the health agency and waning interest, the board was dismantled four years ago.
However, officials said they saw a need for the board to regroup to share industry perspectives, spread the word about food safety and discuss rules and regulations, because city code is always changing.
“We knew we wanted to bring this back,” Long said.
The board is expected to meet quarterly.
About six months ago, Columbus Public Health reached out to restaurant professionals who represented a large swath of venues, from large restaurants to food trucks, as well as people in the community who had no association with the business, Rodriguez said.
“What we were looking for was balanced representation, a large group that could bring all different levels of expertise to the table,” he said.
Putting the board back together also was a goal of the Central Ohio Restaurant Association, said Scott Heimlich, its president.
Heimlich, who also owns Barcelona in German Village, said the board is a sort of bridge between the people who enforce the rules and those who have to accept them.
“When you have a regulatory organization that oversees your membership, there can be controversy, there can be animosity,” he said.
“When someone has to come in and enforce the regulations, it’s not always a healthy relationship – and it doesn’t have to be that way.”