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August 21, 2009

SafeFood© in our Schools

Back to School time is here (insert your own exclamation point if that makes you happy). And with that comes the question of sack lunch or school lunch. Don’t let myth-perception that sack lunches are safer fool you. Actually, schools are one of the safest places to eat food prepared away from home - just check out CDC’s record of where outbreaks occur.

Why are school foods so safe? One reason is the dedicated staff – I have yet to meet a person working in child nutrition programs who does not have the kids’ welfare front and center (and I have inter-acted with a LOT of these folks across the nation). Check out the School Nutrition Association web page at www.schoolnutrition.org if you want evidence of the dedication. (Yes, I am a member – full disclosure).

Another reason is that, three years ago, school districts were charged to develop and implement a food safety plan based on HACCP principles. HACCP is an internally driven approach to food safety – the food service setting identifies possible risks or hazards that might exist, and then puts into place procedures to mitigate these risks. HACCP is about documentation and ownership by all employees. So, if all employees are knowledgeable about the safe way to handle foods and have to document that these practices are followed – then knowledge can translate into practice. Believe me, I am usually NOT a fan of increased government regulations. While we still can’t regulate morality or outlaw people acting stupidly, having someone “have to” do something can only increase odds it will get done – so safe food handling is practiced more frequently.

In the spirit of back to school welcome – let those working in your district’s child nutrition programs know you appreciate their efforts to keep your child healthy and well-fed. If you have questions – talk with them directly. Our nation’s lunch ladies and gentlemen do a tough job every day – your support is appreciated.

Posted August 21, 2009 by Catherine Strohbehn, PhD, RD, CP-FS

August 19, 2009

SafeFood© Rock!

Summertime fun includes open air concerts. While attending the latest in our town’s local summer series, I got to thinking how everyone knows the location of where Jimmy Buffet wastes away and everyone’s got Jenny’s number. *

But how many know the proper end- point temperature for cooking ground beef (FYI = 160°) or that they should rinse cutting boards in bleach water every week or so?

Maybe food safety messaging needs to get Jon Bon Jovi or George Strait to write a song. Dr. Carl Winter, an Extension specialist and microbiologist at the University of California - Davis has worked food safety messaging into lyrics of popular golden oldie songs. See http://foodsafe.ucdavis.edu/ for some sing-a-long ideas.

* Margaritaville and 86 75 309

Posted August 19, 2009 by Catherine Strohbehn, PhD, RD, CP-FS

August 11, 2009

SafeFood© at the Pool

Is it true – can a person get sick from taking a dip at the community swimming pool? Well – yeah. People have gotten sick after swimming because other swimmers have urinated or defecated in the pool (scarily, a recent survey cited in a Parade magazine article reported one in five people admitted to sometimes doing so! Granted, this is not scientific but it is still an eye opener).

Sure, no one intentionally drinks pool water. But, it does happen – and when it does, contaminated water has entered a person’s system. Chlorine can only do so much. Hopefully your pool has a policy about swim diapers. I bet if a Certified Pool Operator (CPO) is in charge that it does. The CPO® is to pools what ServSafe® or CP-FS is to retail foodservices – an assurance that the person in charge knows the right way to maintain operations. In one study we did among Iowa pool operators, we found CPO®- run pools had more structure.

These rules extend to the locker rooms also. Restrooms should be stocked with the necessaries – e.g. toilet paper, running water and soap to wash hands– and should be kept clean. As a former lifeguard, I used to grumble about having “skilled labor” (that would be me) clean the locker rooms. And, as you might suspect, I didn’t give this task the attention it deserved.

Fast-forward 30 years (literally, time has gone quickly) and here I am the one complaining to guards that there is no soap in the locker room. Am I being too fussy? I don’t think so. The pool is busily selling food items at the concession stand (the healthiness of snacks deserves its own posting – stay tuned).

Bottom line: Where there is food, there must be soap and water for handwashing.

posted by Catherine Strohbehn, PhD, RD, CP-FS, swimmer and Mom