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The Best of the Best--An Update on Our Basic Inspection Kit.

We last presented the "best of the best" two years ago in the January/February issue of this Journal At that time, we listed portable instruments and peripheral equipment that we believed were the best available to our profession, according to two criteria:

Field instruments should be disposable or easily decontaminated; small, safe, portable, and lightweight; rugged and not easily damaged; inexpensive; and easy to read, interpret, calibrate, operate, and maintain.

Field instruments should have instructional manuals that are clear and understandable, and repair or vendor recalibration should be easily accessible and timely.

We field-tested all the instruments we recommended by taking them on the job and subjecting them to the harshest conditions normally encountered in our work environment. This testing included carrying our tools to and from work sites in the trunk of a car and in the belly of a plane, in all seasons and in all types of weather. Because our work is mostly in the institutional milieu, we wanted to ensure that our instruments perform as well at the end of the inspection tour as at the beginning. After all, an inspection of a food production facility and its satellite serving kitchens may take several hours, and the evaluation of living areas several days. Therefore, at each site, our instruments were taken to temperature and humidity extremes and, if it happened inadvertently, dropped onto none-too-soft surfaces. We loaned our instruments--after appropriate instruction--to food service managers, correctional personnel, maintenance engineers, and other sanitarians for their reaction and comment. In other words, t hese instruments were used hard. Upon their return, they were tested for accuracy. Only those that held up were featured in this column.

Additionally our work product is often done for forensic support and is therefore scrutinized by legal council and other experts. Needless to say, we have had to defend our use and choice of instruments on several occasions, and we are proud to say that our recommendations have held up under cross-examination in both court testimony and in deposition.

We apologize for not having an update last year, but we have found that significant changes, in both regulation and instrumentation, seem to happen on a biennial basis. So, with that as an introduction, here are millennium updates and recommendations for our most frequently used instruments, which by the way have all been detailed in past columns.

Bimetal Thermometers

The mainstay of our profession has not changed dramatically over the last 20 years. The bimetal thermometer given to us in the 1960s is still serviceable and quite accurate, However, we have recently noticed that bimetal thermometers are appearing on grocery and variety store shelves, as well as in food specialty shops. In fact, the prices on some of these thermometers are less than what we paid for the units we bought when we first entered the profession. While we cannot comment on the accuracy of the less expensive units, we have noticed that there are differences among the various grades of thermometers. The ones we currently use have two significant features in common: First, the printing on the dials is large and crisp, and the lens makes the numerals easy to read, even under lower light conditions. Second, the better thermometers bear the NSF mark. This is our insurance that the thermometer will not impart something to the food even in low-pH situations.

For those of you who prefer a battery-type probe pocket thermometer, we recommend the Delta TRAK "Professional" and the maximum-registering thermometer we affectionately refer to as the "Lollipop." Both have a response time that is far more rapid than the conventional bimetal dial thermometer.
COPYRIGHT 2001 National Environmental Health Association
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Author:Balsamo Jr., James J.
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2001
Words:603
Previous Article:People on the Move.
Next Article:Tools for Environmental Health.
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