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October 16, 2008

SafeFood© on Vacation

I tell myself to “let it go”, to relax and not worry about food borne illness while on vacation. Easier said than done – I guess this is an occupational hazard.

We recently spent a few days in Estes Park, Colorado, which is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. It was beautiful weather and the Aspens were a blazing gold color. We took a few hikes and I did see the scenery. But I also wondered why only hand sanitizers were available in the restroom facilities located at higher elevations. How can concessions be offered without proper hand washing facilities? I understand water sourcing can be an issue, but it sure made me nervous all these people using the restroom and not having an opportunity to properly wash. Yes, the hand sanitizers will remove most pathogens but not the Norovirus, which is leading cause of food borne illness. BTW - Coming soon to the www.iowafoodsafety.org web site will be a section addressing Food Safety Myths.

There was some improvement at lower elevations (we had running water, yea!), but I didn’t see huge increases in people washing their hands the right way – more splashing and dashing than singing happy birthday.

Combine these hand washing observations (or lack of observations) with other things I saw in dining situations (use of same cloth to wipe chairs, tables and silver, for instance) and its enough to make me not want to eat food away from home ever again. I am convinced food safety does sell – the challenge is to convince operations that this is a good investment and there will be return on the money spent to properly train staff. So, “Shout Out” when you see those working in dining situations making bad moves. Nicely ask them to use tongs to put bread in the basket, and I am betting workers will listen. Don’t just never return to the restaurant, give it the old college try and at least attempt to communicate what bothers you. Customers do Rule. Make your voice heard, and you can have the last word!
Submitted by Catherine Strohbehn, PhD, RD, CP-FS, October 16, 2008