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TEHA Presidential Message

Message from the 2014-15 TEHA President Joanna Meyer

Greetings Texas Environmental Health Association Members…


I want to thank personally all who attended TEHA’s 59th AEC this past week. We had over 300 professionals that attended and presented at our conference. We hope that those who could not attend this year’s AEC will make special plans to attend next year’s conference. It will be our 60th AEC and we are already hard at work to make it bigger and more spectacular than ever before. If you have any suggestions or comments for next year’s conference, please let us know, because we would love to hear from you.
Many years ago, when I first entered this profession, I walked into a restaurant to conduct a complaint inspection. I knew something was drastically wrong based on the odor inside the establishment. When I made my way back into the kitchen, I saw a full scale kitchen operating with sewage backing up. Employees were walking through the sewage to prepare food and to serve unsuspecting customers. What was even more shocking was customers were still ordering food with the odor of raw sewage. Needless to say, the owner and I had an interesting discussion regarding basic food safety, and the need to stop operating under that circumstance.  
Another time, I had been inspecting a restaurant for about 45 minutes when I started checking the women’s bathroom. I saw a waitress leave the restroom stall and proceed to walk out the restroom without washing her hands. It was obviously a habit because everybody knew that I was there, and she still did not wash her hands before she left the bathroom. Needless to say, we had a food safety discussion.
I have countless other stories ranging from no running water at a day care center to an apartment complex allowing little children to swim in a cloudy pool where the drain could not be seen. I am sure many of you have similar stories.
Even though things like this may happen every day, we do have current laws that will protect the public health. However, these protective laws are changing in Texas.
Many of you may have heard of the Cottage Food Law. This law that was passed in Texas during 2011 has now made it legal to allow certain baked goods to be sold from people’s homes. During the last legislative session in 2013, the law was expanded even more to allow cottage foods to be sold at different locations outside of people’s homes such as farmer’s markets, festivals and other public events.
Although TEHA could not prevent all anti-food safety laws from passing the legislature during the 83rd session, TEHA did help defeat three out of four major anti-food safety measures that were considered. TEHA could not have done that without the support of Duane Galligher, TEHA’s lobbyist, our governing council, and your help.
Even though we have had a profound effect regarding these challenges, we do have a difficult year facing us.  There will be a new session this upcoming year in Austin.
During this off legislative year, TEHA has been laying the groundwork for preparing for this upcoming session and for further challenges.  However, we do not know exactly which bills will come up until they have been introduced.  We will keep you informed as to the legislative schedule when we have more information.
When I started back in this profession back in the 1990’s, it was unheard of to have a law like the Cottage Food to be able to pass in Texas. With these types of laws, like the Cottage Food law, being passed, this can and will drastically affect our profession and compromise the public’s health.
With this new session coming up next year, we need all of our voices heard because even though we defeated three measures coming into law, we still will need to stop other bills that may not be in the public’s best interest.
This is where TEHA needs your help. There are many ways to help and get involved. They range from testifying against these bills, writing your local Senator/ House of Representative, being active in your local chapter, or in the State governing council.
Our passion to protect the public health and your active involvement in TEHA can make this one of our best years ever.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to serve as President of TEHA.

Joanna Meyer, R.S.