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Safer Food Preparation

Project Details

Year: 2002
Location: Lexington
Project Manager: Beverly E. Anderson, Health Director
Partners: Lexington Public Schools Overview

The Lexington Health Department surveyed local food establishments, including public and private school cafeterias, to determine the type and levels of toxics usage in order to develop a set of guidelines on TUR in food service establishments. They held training sessions for key personnel on the findings and identified opportunities for toxics use reduction and safer workplaces. They are developing a model Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan for Food Service and a web based training program in IPM for future use by food service personnel.

The Health Department presented their findings during statewide training of Health Officers (see Massachusetts Health Officers Assn.'s 2002 TURN Project) and solicited comments from the food establishments and Health Officers on a potential town policy or regulation requiring IPM in food establishments. As a result of the project, the Board of Health approved a regulation requiring all pest reports to be on-site for safety inspections, and is considering passage of a full regulation requiring IPM in food establishments.

Project Accomplishments

Data Gathering and Analysis: Interviews were carried out with 12 Lexington establishments to assess patterns of toxics usage, working behaviors, purchasing habits, attitudes and other factors contributing to toxics usage in food establishments. Mail-in surveys were sent to the remaining 90 food establishments in the town to gather additional data.

Following the survey process, material safety data sheets on products used were collected and analyzed for potential health effects of substances both alone, and with respect to usage patterns and exposure potential within the food establishment environment. Receptors for health effect analysis included workers, customers, and the indoor and outdoor environments.

Communications and Training: Training to a limited number of food establishments was carried out. Additional training to ensure reach to the target audience is planned for late September-October of 2002 (this will be required training!). Toxics use training is now incorporated into the routine food safety inspection process for the next year. On-line learning will be available in late July on the Lexington web site. Training for health officers was carried out in collaboration with the Mass. Health Officer's Association at four sessions, and additional training is planned at the association's yearly conference in November of 2002.

Alternative Product Introduction: Packages of alternative products, mainly cleaning products, are being assembled for distribution to the original 12 establishments with whom in-person interviews were held. Follow up interviews will be carried out to determine if food establishments used the products and their assessment of effectiveness next to their usual products.

Pesticide Usage: This area of toxics usage emerged as an area of major importance and also of an area where significant reduction of toxics might be achieved. Efforts toward the goal of introducing the concept of TUR in conjunction with pesticide usage and promoting actual reduction through Integrated Pest Management include the following:

  1. Write and pass regulation through Board of Health requiring Integrated Pest Management in all food establishments deemed to be of high risk for pest problems (e.g, due to lack of code compliance with requirements specific for pest issues) or at point of infestation. As written the regulation would allow inspectors to require IPM plans specific for the type of pest involved when a food establishment has a problem, and to require preventative measures in food establishment where demonstrable risk for pest problems exists. As of July 17, 2002, the Board of Health approved a regulation requiring all pest reports to be on site for safety inspections, and will consider passage of the full regulation requiring IPM in food establishments at their next meeting on August 14, 2002, pending submission of guidelines for IPM plans.
  2. Work with professional pest manager to develop effective learning materials for IPM specific for the food establishment and possibly model IPM plans for food establishment to follow.
  3. Hold roundtable discussions with local pest managers, a limited number of health agents, and other interested parties to discuss problems with and mechanisms for introducing and enforcing IPM in food establishments. This session is tentatively scheduled for late September.

Regulation Development: A regulation pertaining to toxics use reduction was developed and presented to the Lexington Board of Health on July 17, 2002 for consideration. If passed, all food establishments in Lexington will be required to maintain material safety data sheets for all toxics on site; maintain pest management service reports on site; implement an integrated pest management program at the time of infestation; and, implement an integrated pest management program if they are judged by the health agent to be at high risk for pest problems.

IPM Model Plan: We are working on a model IPM plan for food establishments with Richard Berman of Waltham Services and other vendors. Reportedly such IPM plans already exist and have been used elsewhere.

Roundtable with Pest Managers: A roundtable discussion with pest managers and a small group of health agents will be held in September to discuss current pesticide usage practices, ways in which pest management professionals and health agents might work together, etc.

Web page development: Instructional pieces developed during the program, and a modified version of our workshop will be placed on our web site for food establishments to access.

Training of Asian workers: Information developed during the project will be translated by a staff member into Mandarin Chinese for distribution to the many Asian food establishments in our area.


Initially the primary obstacle was getting the message to our target audience: food establishment managers and employees. We believe that workshops would be the best route, but despite extensive publicity, the workshops failed to have good attendance. At that point the Health Department decided to work with an IPM specialist to develop an IPM approach for restaurants, and to integrate our primary messages regarding usage of cleaners, degreasers, pesticides, etc. into a concerted inspection process.

Timing was our biggest problem. For example, pest services have told us not to hold the roundtable until the autumn.


Several methods are being used to evaluate the project:

  1. Survey completed with information gained
  2. # of food establishments, school workers and DPW people trained.
  3. # of health agents trained.
  4. Information on use of alternative products in this setting.
  5. Passage of regulation on IPM in food establishments.
Beyond TURN

The following activities will continue beyond the grant period:

  • Write and pass regulation through Board of Health requiring Integrated Pest Management in all food establishments
  • Hold roundtable between health agents and pest managers
  • Additional training of food establishments
  • Specific training of Asian workers
  • Presentation to Massachusetts Health Officers Association members at the annual conference in November on incorporating TUR messages and practices into the routine food establishment inspection process.

This page updated Monday October 03 2011