Robert Travnicek had a more than 20-year run as the head of the local Health Department, so we listen when he issues a warning.
Reporter Mary Perez contacted Travnicek for her front-page story Tuesday about budget cuts at the Mississippi Department of Health. The state is cutting 20 food inspector positions, which will result in some restaurants being inspected only once a year.
"Food inspection, if I was there, is the last thing I'd cut," said Travnicek, who can speak more freely now that he's no longer employed by the state. "Who knows what could happen in a year? You are going to have food outbreaks."
Two positions were cut on the Coast and three Coastal inspectors were moved to wastewater-related duties.
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The decision is troubling for our health, our businesses and our tourism industry in South Mississippi.
Restaurants want to put out a quality product. We get that. But the fear of frequent restaurant inspection ensures there are no corners cut. For comparison purposes, say you knew there were no highway patrolman on the interstate. Would you then drive well above the speed limit?
The inspection process protects you, the consumer.
Fewer inspectors also means restaurants are going to have a more difficult time getting open. Previously, inspectors would typically go out several times to a new facility and help the owner work through the process, Perez reported.
Now, a health department spokeswoman said, "we're just not funded to do that because of the budget cuts."
And what if there was a Chipotle-like outbreak from a restaurant in South Mississippi?
The damage to our tourism industry, deserved or not, would have harmful effects that would be difficult to overcome.
We urge the governor and our legislators to find the money needed to reverse these budget cuts.
Bad food and bad business is nothing to mess around with.
This editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.