Food Digest December 2019

food digest

December 2019

In this issue

New staff: Meet Nick Fortmeyer and Leah Larson

Nick Photo

My name is Nick Fortmeyer. I have strong interest in water quality and its relationship with human health; I also have a great love of the outdoors. These passions led me to the University of North Dakota where I got a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree with a focus in biological sciences. Through my education my interest in public health was sparked and it led me to the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities to get a master’s degree in Environmental Health. It was my hope to use this knowledge to improve the human health, environmental relationship. When Hennepin County hired me on as a community health intern, I found an outlet for my career passions. Over the course of the next year or so I learned a lot and was gratified when it culminated in an Environmentalist inspector position. As I work the West Plymouth area, I’m excited about the various ways I’ll be able to bring my education to the fore, and to learn from my Environmental teammates. I look forward to continuing the promotion of public health in Hennepin County.

Leah photo

My name is Leah Larson. My initial field of study was Geography which led me to a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. I’ll be returning there soon as I plan on pursuing my Master’s in Environmental Health. I started with Hennepin County in May 2019 as a Community Health Intern conducting swimming pool inspections, collecting beach samples, and assisting on waterborne illness outbreaks. As summer turned to fall, I started assisting inspectors with their school cafeteria inspections (schools are inspected twice a year–it keeps everyone busy!) and have recently been given the opportunity to stay with Hennepin County as a full-time member of the Environmental Health Team! In addition to my work with Hennepin County, I enjoy spending time with my family and being outside – exploring, hiking, walking my dogs, and doing anything in or on the water.

Safe chemical storage: How to protect food and employees

A recent event serves as a tragic reminder that it behooves us all to reevaluate our chemical storage. It is a common violation to observe chemicals stored too closely to food, or over food, but it’s less common to be cited for inappropriate storage. However, it is the responsibility of everyone to ensure that their chemicals are stored properly and intelligently.

Chemicals are normally kept in separate areas like closets, cabinets and storage areas. These areas are not as busy as the high traffic food spaces in our kitchens and can be neglected. This is dangerous.

Poor chemical storage

Some storage issues to monitor and correct immediately include:

  • Chemical spills, even dry chemicals – these should be cleaned immediately. Additionally, they must be cleaned safely with necessary gear such as gloves, masks, and splash guards. Use of inferior personal protective equipment (PPE) can cause harm. Employees should always have access to PPE and be trained in its use.
  • Dispose of chemicals and contaminated items safely – do not dispose of a large quantity of chemicals in a rubbish bin. It will likely damage the bin and creates an enclosed space where the fumes may concentrate.
  • Never mix chemicals – never mix bleach and ammonia products together, as this creates a poisonous gas which is lethal. It is not unusual to have bleach and QUAT (quaternary ammonium) and glycolic acids in our kitchens and bathrooms. Both bleach and QUAT are common sanitizers and disinfectants. Keeping these completely separate in storage is important.
  • Label everything ­– label all spray bottles, buckets, and containers. Even if the contents are simply water or oil, intended for cooking or not, it can be confused and therefore is a hazard. This is especially important when chemicals are taken out of their original container and put into something else (a spray bottle, for example).
  • Read the label – every label should have a description of what is in the bottle, how to properly use and store it, and first aid directions.
  • Remove the empties and clutter – Storing cleaning agents with clutter makes it more likely that the container will be knocked over at some point. Storing containers on lower shelves in a well-organized space is safer. These areas should not be used for old equipment, empty bottles, and employee jackets.
  • Training – all employees should be aware of the dangers of housing a variety of solvents, disinfectants, cleaners, sanitizers, detergents, and rinse aids in their work spaces. They should know how to dispense, use, and clean up these products. Automatic chemical dispensers can help.

Another suggestion to add from the Green Hospitality Initiative (GHI) includes having an emergency protocol in case of accidents. Remember that a chemical accident is grounds for a call to the Hennepin County Environmental Health 24/7 emergency line (612-543-5217).

Hepatitis A outbreak in Minnesota

In August 2019, the Minnesota Department of Health declared an outbreak of Hepatitis A in several counties (including Hennepin County), which is part of the larger national outbreak occurring. MDH has recently published an update with some important public information, including information about vaccination. Although routine vaccination for Hep A has not yet become a recommendation for food service workers, heightened awareness and review of the importance of not working while ill is pertinent to us all. This is particularly important for anyone in food service because Hep A is highly infectious and can spread rapidly through contaminated foods. 


Web resources

Visit for information on:

  • General environmental health 
  • Basic food safety classes 
  • Temporary food stand licensing 
  • Food license information, categories, and fee schedule 
  • New construction or remodeling application 

Radon information and test kits 

Septic system requirements and procedures

Body art licensing information (tattooing and piercing) 

Beaches in Hennepin County

Public swimming pool regulations

About us

Food Digest is a quarterly newsletter written by inspectors from Hennepin
County Public Health Department, and designed to support and educate Hennepin County food facility owners and operators. Articles focus on food
safety and requirements from the Minnesota Food Code and Hennepin County food ordinance.


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Hopkins, MN 55343-9413

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Past issues

Previous issues of Food digest available in our archive.

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