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By Cleve Bryan

By Cleve Bryan

VINELAND, N.J., (CBS) – Customers can dine with confidence in Vineland as the city’s health department becomes the first certified by a strict food safety program.

“I think at first our initial reaction was like ‘oh boy’ you know there’s a lot in the daily business of things we have to do as it is,” says Ryan Middleton, co-owner of Larry’s II.

Several years ago Larry’s II joined the rest of Vineland’s 400-plus restaurants and food retailers on a journey with the Vineland City Health Department to comply with the FDA’s Voluntary National Retail Food Regulatory Program.

The program outlines nine initiatives to elevate the food safety inspection, education and accountability standards for health departments and their jurisdictions.

Since the program’s inception, only about 450 of the nation’s roughly 3,000 health departments have attempted the program and Vineland is first to become fully certified.

“No place is 100 percent perfect all the time, but our food handlers here in Vineland are certainly more knowledgeable about food safety than anywhere else,” says Vineland health specialist Jeanee Garbarino.

The health department has specially trained inspectors who now do more thorough and frequent inspections of restaurants and grocery stores.  The city also passed new food safety laws above and beyond New Jersey state regulations.

Middleton says there’s been a major shift in thinking among his staff about safety measures like checking food temperatures frequently and separating items to prevent cross contamination.

“Once it becomes part of the daily routine it’s not difficult,” says Middleton.

At the end of the day it’s the customers who can have confidence biting into every safely prepared meal.

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