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DHEC Presented with Outstanding Community Leader Award for Efforts to Ensure Food Safety at Restaurants during COVID-19 Pandemic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Feb. 22, 2021

COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) recently received the 2021 Outstanding Community Leader Award (Public Sector) for the agency’s innovative work to assist restaurants in promoting food safety throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The award was presented by the South Carolina Restaurant & Lodging Association (SCRLA), a statewide organization focused on promoting and educating foodservice and lodging industries, at its annual Stars of the Hospitality Industry Awards Luncheon. 

DHEC has a role in overseeing South Carolina Food Laws and Retail Food Establishment Regulations that require safe food handling practices in order to protect the health and safety of restaurant patrons and retail food workers. Over the past several months, DHEC’s Food Safety Program has implemented several innovative approaches to overseeing food safety requirements while also adhering to public health recommendations for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Some of these efforts include:

  • Implementing Virtual Food Safety Checks. To date, the agency has performed more than 27,000 virtual inspections at retail food establishments across the state. Click here to see video of a Virtual Food Safety Check
  • Helping launch the Palmetto Priority Seal of Commitment, a program that allows restaurants to inform customers they have taken specific protective actions to limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission
  • Working with public health officials to craft situation-specific guidance for if and when a restaurant or retail food establishment was impacted by COVID-19
  • Developing guidance and recommendations for implementing disease-prevention protocols
  • Providing signage, flyers and other resources in English and Spanish for restaurant use

“The restaurant industry is a valued part of our community both for employees and consumers,” said Sandra Craig, Director for the DHEC’s Division of Food and Lead Risk Assessments. “Our team has worked diligently and in innovative ways to ensure food safety compliance during this unprecedented time. We are honored by this recognition as well as the partnership we have with the South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association.”  

South Carolina has more than 22,000 licensed retail food establishments across the state. The restaurant industry has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and DHEC’s Food Safety Program has worked closely with SCRLA, the South Carolina Department of Commerce and other key partners to assist retail food establishments in adapting to the necessary precautions for protecting customers and staff.

“DHEC's hard work and dedication to the hospitality industry over the past several years, and specifically this year with the pandemic, has not gone unnoticed,” said John Durst, President and CEO of the SCRLA. “Myra Reece, Sandra Craig, Robin Mack and their team provided much needed assistance when writing our Restaurant Reopening Guidelines to help our industry reopen safely. DHEC was instrumental in helping us develop and launch Palmetto Priority, which is a collaborative commitment to provide a clean and safe environment for our staff and guests.”

The SCRLA presents its Outstanding Community Leader Awards each year to individuals and/or entities to recognize their roles as community leaders and active volunteers in professional service to the hospitality industry. These individuals have demonstrated an exemplary level of leadership and community engagement to positively impact the quality of life in South Carolina and to serve the needs of its citizens.

For the latest guidance and recommendations about COVID-19 and retail food establishments, visit www.scdhec.gov/COVID19.