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September 28, 2009

SafeFood©: Does Policy = Practice?

As we close out Food Safety Month, it seems a good time to reflect upon the safety policies we expect retail foodservice employees to follow. We have all seen the signs in the restroom: Employees must wash their hands before returning to work. There is even a “standardized recipe for the process. Although this is a clear employee hygiene policy I would bet many of you have seen a foodservice worker saunter out of the restroom without washing their hands or only doing the “splash and dash”. WDUD - what is a person to do? Most people may say gross, and then choose not to return to that establishment. The more assertive person might say, Dude, wash your hands – but while the message may be given, not clear it is received.

What is it going to take to get the message across? Some research reports employees even admit they don’t wash their hands!

I take it on faith that most retail food workers understand why the policies are in place and make every effort to follow. I also understand, having experienced it my self back in the day, that being busy in a restaurant is an understatement for the kinetic energy being generated. What I don’t get are the situations where there is clearly a “failure to communicate” – for instance, no one has told anyone the soap dispenser needs replacing. What I also don’t get is why more peer pressure is not used.

Please retail food worker, think of yourself and your customers. Most restaurants depend on repeat customers. If there is not a customer coming through the door, there is not a business – and if there is not a business, you don’t have a job.
Challenge a co-worker you see not following SafeFood policies. The policies are not torture imposed by bureaucrats just to make your life miserable – they are put there for the reason of keeping people healthy. My faith is in you!
submitted by Catherine Strohbehn, RD, CP-FS on September 28, 2009

September 23, 2009

SafeFood © Clean and Pretty!

Remember the old Mickey Mouse Club TV show (sure you do – Annette? Tommy?) when Mickey would ask “Is everyone clean and pretty? Then, on with the show! ”. I remember this well (and probably explains my fixation with cleaning). Well here we are closing out the first decade of the 21st century and proper cleaning is still an issue. In fact, improper cleaning and sanitizing practices are one of the top contributing reasons of how people get a foodborne illness. Don’t you expect to have clean and sanitary silverware and cups when you eat away from home? That is certainly a reasonable expectation. A challenge is that something can look clean just with a spit and polish, literally. We trust that the food establishment has either a high temperature or chemical sanitizing process that is working correctly.
What can you do when you are working at community events? Think about using very hot water (although this could pose some safety issues as very hot means 180° F.) or a chemical such as chlorine. A recipe for chlorine sanitizer that is safe for food contact surfaces is one tablespoon per one gallon of warm water. More is not better; too much chemical and there is risk of toxicity.
Clean and Pretty – Mickey was right! I knew those hours watching the Mickey Mouse Club were not wasted! All together now:
Who's the leader of the club
That's made for you and me?
M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!

Hey, there! Hi, there! Ho, there!
You're as welcome as can be!
M--I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E
submitted by Catherine Strohbehn, MM Club Fan of early 1960's and food safety specialist

September 11, 2009

SafeFood© Location Location Location!

A well-known axiom in the real-estate world is location. A comparable axiom for foodservice operators is known source of food served to customers. September is Food Safety Month and the experts tell us that food from unsafe sources is one of the leading causes of foodborne illness. Restaurants, schools, and other licensed foodservice MUST purchase food from approved suppliers. Generally, that means the supplier has the licenses needed and have undergone required inspections. A few products (such as most fresh, whole, unprocessed fruits and vegetables) don’t require any oversight as the content of the food doesn’t allow for rapid bacterial growth.
Most of these regulations are in place to prevent back street sales of products from unidentified (and possibly unsafe sources). Foods sold through approved channels are monitored. Packaged foods will indicate the name and address of the manufacturer or distributor, ingredients used, and nutritional information. They won’t tell you source of all ingredients used, which was an issue with the pet food outbreak a few years back and a factor to consider when purchasing imported foods (very few of these are inspected in the U.S.) Those who sell food need to be able to identify at least one link back in the food chain, which will allow for trace-back should there be an investigation.
Many people like to buy food direct from a local farmer – this is part of the “food with a face” movement. One friend asked, “Well, I have my doctor and my dry cleaner, so why not my farmer?”
The food supply in this country is pretty safe. Yes, there are a high number of illnesses each year but many are preventable. Do what you can to prevent becoming sick by buying food from known sources, reading available labels, and following directions for preparation.
Submitted Catherine Strohbehn, PhD, RD, CP-FS on September 11, 2009