Panel: Addressing Food Safety Challenges Following Hurricane Katrina


Panelists:                                Dean Bodager, RS, DAAS, MPA

Regional Environmental Epidemiologist

Food and Waterborne Disease

Division of Environmental Health, Florida Department of Health

Capt Wendy Fanaselle, RS, MS, DAAS

Consumer Safety Officer, Retail Food Protection Team

Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA

John Gurrisi

Director, Total Quality-New Business

Darden Restaurants, Orlando, FL

Jo McLean, DHH, OPH

Sanitarian Regional Director

Department of Health and Hospitals/Office of Public Health

Region I, New Orleans, LA;

Level of Knowledge:              Multi-Level

Mr. Dean Bodager’s Abstract:

In Florida, preparations prior to Hurricane Katrina were the same as those for Florida's many other hurricanes. With respect to food safety and hygiene, this involved distributing information to the public and inspectors prior to the hurricane and ensuring that contact information was up-to-date.  After the hurricane, shelters and feeding stations were monitored for appropriate food safety and hygiene practices, along with information distribution. Other issues related to hurricanes in general and Katrina specifically, involved the complexity post-hurricane staffing for these activities, including availability, environmental heath specialists as hurricane victims themselves, the need/desire for assistance by affected areas, and compassion fatigue.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Name at least three post-disaster issues faced after Katrina and other hurricanes
  2. Name three types of post-hurricane foodborne illness surveillance efforts
  3. Name three reasons for lack of post-hurricane foodborne illness activity

Mr. John Gurrisi’s Abstract:

The safe operation of a restaurant or other food facility following a natural disaster, such as a hurricane, is vital to the community it serves. Darden Restaurants had several restaurants that were affected by Hurricane Katrina and several other major hurricanes during the past two years. This presentation will provide detailed information on how to prepare a restaurant for safe-food service before the storm, and how to serve safe food in the wake of the storm. Lack of potable water is one of the major hurdles that must be adequately planned for and executed to ensure safe-food preparation and service to the public. Other hurdles that must be dealt with include personal hygiene and hand washing, utensil washing, menu considerations, food supply, and staffing. This presentation will show that by proper planning and execution, a restaurant can service the community within which it operates.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Plan and prepare a restaurant for food service following a hurricane
  2. Prepare a restaurant for serving safe food while operating under a boil water notice and other food safety challenges
  3. Learn best practices for safe food handling, personal hygiene, utensil washing, and menu selection for a safe and efficient food service.

Capt Wendy Fanaselle’s and Ms. Joe McLean’s Abstract:

The catastrophic devastation produced by hurricane Katrina will long be remembered in our history as an event that forever changed our nation.  The 30 foot storm surge up the Mississippi river gulf coast resulted in 5 levee breaches and flooded 80% of the city of New Orleans.  The levee breaches added to a death toll from Katrina that has exceeded 1600 people, with more than 200 unaccounted for, 1.5 million displaced, 527,000 homeless, and an estimated 75 billion in damages.  Katrina’s devastation covered 108,456 square miles, reached across several gulf coat states, left us with memories that will stay with us forever, and lessons learned that will help us in preparing for the next disaster.  This presentation will cover the emergency response experience and food safety issues after Katrina in Louisiana from a local and a federal perspective.  The combination of resources and teamwork of the Public Health Service officers, local, state, and federal environmental health specialists that worked together on a daily basis were essential part of the response.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Gain an understanding of the environmental problems that can develop from a disaster like this.
  2. Gain an understanding of the issues food facilities will face in recovering from this type of disaster.
  3. Gain an understanding of the value of teamwork in responding to a disaster.