Department of Agriculture releases COVID-19 restaurant enforcement actions, November 16 – November 22

Coronavirus

The Department of Agriculture today released data related to COVID-19 restaurant enforcement actions from November 16 through November 22, 2020. The information is specific to COVID-19 mitigation requirements for restaurants including social distancing, masking, and occupancy limits.

These numbers include actions taken during routine food safety inspections and inspections prompted by consumer complaints.

From November 16 through November 22, the Bureau of Food Safety performed 667 total inspections, 25 of which were complaint-driven; 19 were COVID-19 specific complaints. The bureau distributed 48 COVID-19 complaint-driven educational letters. 8 COVID-19 related complaints were referred to local and county health jurisdictions. Five formal Warning Letters were issued and three citations were filed.

A county by county breakdown of COVID-19 restaurant enforcement actions can be found on the Department of Agriculture’s website. The data will be updated weekly, with data from the previous week. 

Among other requirements, all businesses in the restaurant and retail food service industry authorized to conduct in-person activities are mandated to:

  • Require all customers to wear a mask while entering, exiting, or otherwise traveling through the restaurant or retail food service business (mask may be removed while seated).
  • Employees are required to wear masks at all times.
  • Provide at least six feet between parties at tables or physical barriers between customers where booths are arranged back to back.
  • Ensure maximum occupancy limits for indoor and outdoor areas are posted and enforced.

The Bureau of Food Safety has always operated with an education-first model, and always works to educate and correct on-site before taking official action. Businesses unwilling to correct on-site will first receive a warning letter. Following an initial warning, food safety inspectors will follow up with unannounced inspections to ensure compliance or issue citations as necessary. On subsequent visits, violators may receive a citation and/or fine ranging from $25 to $300 per offense.

In addition to these monetary citations, a retail establishment or restaurant will be required to close for a period of up to 24 hours beginning the day of the second violation. During the closure, the establishment is required to complete rigorous cleaning and then reimpose all mitigation measures to come in compliance with the governor’s order. Failure to comply will result in enhanced penalties upon revisit and referral for criminal prosecution for obstructing the administration of law or other government functions, pursuant to the Pennsylvania crimes code.

Consumers with general food safety complaints or concerns about non-compliance for COVID-19 mitigation can file a report online. COVID-19 mitigation restaurant enforcement actions will be released on a weekly basis.

For more information about the Department of Agriculture’s COVID-19 response, visit agriculture.pa.gov/covid.

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Pennsylvania COVID-19 Map

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health

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