Health inspector shortage causes New Mexico establishments to go unchecked

Health News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – There are tens of thousands of restaurants and businesses in New Mexico, but only a few dozen people to inspect them all.

Restaurants across New Mexico may not be getting the attention they need due to a shortage of health inspectors.

“I am concerned about everything,” local Frances Valdez said. “We need all of those people.”

According to the state’s environment department, there is only one inspector for every 418 establishments.

While each place is supposed to be inspected at least once a year, about 2,000 go unchecked due to a limited budget and staff.

“I got to say that I support food inspectors, so that doesn’t sound good,” local Andrew Kelerher said.

State Environment Cabinet Secretary James Kenney said the shortage is due to things like people retiring and the demand outpacing the number of inspectors.

“It is largely that New Mexico is growing in certain parts of the state,” Kenney said. “We do not have the resources to grow the state employees at the same rate in which the industry is growing.”

As a result, available inspectors are having to be shuffled around throughout the state, unable to reach as many restaurants as the department would like or follow up with problem sites.

“They should have a way of following up on what is going on so this can be taken care of,” Valdez said.

While Bernalillo County and Albuquerque have their own food inspectors, the environment department is still responsible for Albuquerque Public Schools, plus the rest of the state.

“Mistakes can happen,” Kelerher said. “It is easy to become complacent, and food safety is important for everyone.”

The department is asking the legislature for nearly $9 million to add 70 more inspectors to get the job done.

The department said despite the shortage, it is not leaving any part of the state unprotected, and people should not be worried about their safety.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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