Iowa Officials Seek More Funding for Food Safety Inspections

Local health officials continue to pressure state lawmakers to increase the budget appropriation for the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals food safety program. Legislation failed to gain traction in both the House and the Senate this year.

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) — Some county officials are seeking more funding for food safety inspections at Iowa restaurants as financial constraints have restricted the frequency of reviews across the state.

Local health officials continue to pressure state lawmakers to increase the budget appropriation for the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals food safety program, the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported Friday. Legislation failed to gain traction in both the House and the Senate this year.

Sandy Heinen, a Black Hawk County environmental health officer, said stagnant funding has meant fewer inspections of restaurants and grocery stores, most of which are now reviewed every couple years as compared to twice a year in the past.

"That concerns me not only as an inspector but also as someone who dines out," she said.

Limited funds have caused several counties to drop inspection contracts with the DIA, bumping the state's workload to 52 of Iowa's 99 counties since 2009. Black Hawk County depends on local taxes to make up for the state funding shortfall to keep its inspection program alive.

Sen. Bill Dotzler, a Waterloo Democrat, said school funding and other fiscal measures continue to take priority at the Capitol. He said he was disappointed when the bill he sponsored didn't move forward.

"I really worked hard to get it reasonable because the counties cannot cover the costs themselves for these inspections," he said. "I believe this is essential to our mission: protecting the health and safety of Iowans."

The bill passed a Senate subcommittee, but it was declared dead after a similar measure in the House failed to garner support.

Despite the legislation's defeat, officials said they'll keep at their push for more funding.

"I haven't thrown in the towel yet," said Jon McNamee, director of the Black Hawk County Health Department's enforcement, surveillance and preparedness division.

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