State to take over food inspections for Sedgwick Co.


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WICHITA, Kan -- In his 14 years at Riverside Cafe, Paul Cohlmia says just about every day is bustling.

"It's organized chaos," Cohlmia said.

Of the dozens of customers grabbing lunch at its 13th Street location, Cohlmia said the biggest priority is maintaining quality.

"It's mostly food safety we worry about the most -- as a restaurant owner," he said.

About twice a year, restaurants like his have a food inspection. Up until now, it's been done by the City of Wichita for Sedgwick County. The work has been contracted to them by the state.

However, this past week, the state announced plans to take over that responsibility as it has for every county in Kansas -- minus Sedgwick County.

The City of Wichita did nothing wrong, said Chad Bontrager, assistant secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture. The decision was financially driven.

"We'll have some costs to get our folks up and running, but we project savings in the first year to be $125,000 and in the years after, starting at $190,000 and only increasing from that point," he said.

Bontrager said the state will take over the responsibility in April. He also adds that the inspection process will remain the same, but more businesses will be added to the list. Currently, places like restaurants, grocery stores, schools and convenient stores are inspected. Now, food processing centers and hotels will be added to inspections.

The City of Wichita has contracted food inspection services with the state since 1978. More than 2,000 vendors are on the inspection list.

"The quality and quantity of food service inspections is stipulated in the annual contract created by the State of Kansas, requiring a minimum of one inspector for every 400 food service establishments. This standard was consistently met by the City of Wichita," says Wichita City Manager Robert Layton in a statement.

"As this service transitions to the State of Kansas, the City of Wichita will do everything in its power to ensure that there is no compromise of the food service inspections that have earned the respect and confidence of the hundreds of thousands of Wichitans and guests who regularly visit the many quality food service establishments in our community," he continues.

To check if your favorite food establishments are up to code, go to http://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/food-safety-lodging/inspection-results


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