Supervisor introduces safe-food initiative

Seal of Los Angeles County.

In the wake of videos that have circulated online of drivers for food-delivery services helping themselves to customer orders, county supervisors asked health officials to take a closer look at how food is delivered through online apps.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion by Supervisor Kathryn Barger on Tuesday, calling on the Public Health Department, restaurants and stakeholders to work together on a framework for food-handling regulations.

Barger encourages the county to “seal the meal” to motivate restaurants to start including packaging that protects their consumers from possible contamination. Barger, who represents L.A. County’s 5th District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley, introduced the motion to the board to help ensure that drivers are practicing safe food handling, according to the motion report. 

“There are simple, easy-to-implement measures that can be taken to ‘seal the meal,’ which ensures that food is safe from contamination while in transport,” said Barger, who suggested a cooperative approach rather than a regulatory action. “Restaurants and delivery services understand that sealed packaging and safe food handling practices improve overall customer satisfaction, which is good for business.”

Third-party food delivery services like GrubHub, UberEats and others have been receptive to safe-food handling and already implemented bags that are sealed, according to county officials. 

Barger also expressed a desire to avoid putting a mandate on the industry, saying she’d rather see the Department of Public Health work with the California Restaurant Association, food-delivery platforms and other pertinent stakeholders to create an educational campaign. 

“(The campaign will underscore) the importance of preventing food contamination by deploying food safety methods such as the integration of sealed packaging and appropriate safe food handling training for those that deliver food,” the motion report stated. 

“The California Restaurant Association has had ongoing conversations with health inspectors about ways to ensure third-party delivery drivers are adhering to the same food safety standards that restaurants adhere to,” said Sharokina Shams, vice president of public affairs at the California Restaurant Association. “We welcome the Board of Supervisors to look at the issue and focus on the source of the problem.”

Uber spokesman Nick Smith said the role of packaging the food is primarily the responsibility of the restaurant, and its drivers are only involved in the transportation process. 

“Our restaurant partners do that themselves,” Smith said. “The extent of the impact that we’ve had on packaging to date is by encouraging less waste.” 

Department of Public Health officials are being asked to report back to the board within 45 days to discuss their progress, the motion states.

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