The Darien Health Department is continuing its push to improve the quality of service at local food establishments with its newest initiative: a new food handler training course.

The course offers an opportunity for food-service workers in Darien to participate, which must be provided to employees, according to State mandates.

"We're trying to provide another option for restaurants to meet our requirements," said Darien Health Director David Knauf. "It's a statewide problem. There's a big gap between saying you need to provide this training and actually providing it."

The course consists of a single half-day interactive session, during which participants watch food-safety related videos and engage in discussion about "what's wrong" in the video, Knauf said. The courses will be limited to 10 people per session, in an effort to facilitate interaction between participants and the instructor.

The course will end with a multiple-choice and true-false exam, Knauf said. Those who pass the exam will receive a certificate declaring that they have completed the necessary training required by the state. While it's not mandatory that town food-service employees participate in this particular training program, Knauf said he believes it will spur many benefits for employees and Darien restaurant goers.

"It's an additional tool in the toolkit for providing safe food for patrons in Darien," he said.

"Part of the intent of this is trying to get to know people so they don't just think of us as the inspector," Kanuf said.

Of course, inspection is still important, he said, and Darien establishments are doing well on that front.

"Scores are up since last year," Knauf said.

Since instituting the new rating system this fall, the health department has dished out more than five dozen "good" ratings.

"With all these initiatives, we're starting from a good place," Knauf said. "People here really care, and there's a high level of expectations among the public."

Participants are asked to pre-register for the course by contacting the Health Department at 203-656-7320. The first session will be held from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 9 in Town Hall room 119; another will be held at the same location and time on Thursday, Feb. 25.