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South Carolina’s food safety responsibilities now in new hands

Ross Norton //July 5, 2024//

The transfer of restaurant kitchen inspection duties became effective on July 1 across South Carolina. (Photo/Deposit/Photos)

The transfer of restaurant kitchen inspection duties became effective on July 1 across South Carolina. (Photo/Deposit/Photos)

The transfer of restaurant kitchen inspection duties became effective on July 1 across South Carolina. (Photo/Deposit/Photos)

The transfer of restaurant kitchen inspection duties became effective on July 1 across South Carolina. (Photo/Deposit/Photos)

South Carolina’s food safety responsibilities now in new hands

Ross Norton //July 5, 2024//

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The clipboard-toting men and women who pop into restaurants with sharp eyes for detail are bearing different credentials now.

On July 1 many food safety duties that were the purview of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control were handed over to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture.

Legislation passed in May 2023 that eliminated DHEC and divided its programs among existing and new agencies.

The Agriculture Department’s new Retail Food Safety Department regulates restaurant kitchens, grocery store delis, caterers, school cafeterias, some convenience stores and certain other establishments that prepare food for on-site consumption, according to a news release from SCDA.

The agency’s Milk Safety program regulates fluid milk and grade “A” milk products such as yogurt. SCDA’s Laboratory Services Department has taken over the Milk Lab and will be responsible for testing fluid milk samples and some milk products.

Businesses that were regulated by the former DHEC Manufactured Foods program — including ice, soft drinks, bottled water, frozen desserts, butter and cheese — are now regulated by SCDA’s existing food safety program, which oversees food manufacturing at the wholesale level.

Related: South Carolina Agriculture Department to take over some food safety responsibilities

These programs are part of SCDA’s Consumer Protection Division, which regulates many agricultural, food and consumer-related services in South Carolina, including weights and measuring devices (including fuel pumps and grocery scales), animal and pet food, seeds and produce farming, the release stated.

Consumers soon will see new SCDA-branded letter grade decals on retail food establishment windows. The public can access the SC Food Grades system through the SCDA website or using the QR code on the decal to read inspection reports and view letter grades for retail food establishments, the release said.

While retail food safety officers will be based in the regions where they work, all administration has been centralized at SCDA’s State Farmers Market campus. DHEC’s regional offices will no longer be accepting payments or providing services relating to retail food safety.

“SCDA is committed to customer service and excited to take on these new responsibilities,” the agency said in the release. “During the transition period, we ask for patience from the public and regulated businesses as we continue to adjust our staffing and procedures.

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