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April 23, 2010

SafeFood© Travels

How lucky can a girl get? While some people get tired of traveling, I enjoy work trips to new cities, maybe it is the change from small town/rural life. Usually there is time to explore the town and sample local fare. I recently had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful city of Charleston, S.C. Granted, I had the tourist perspective – staying in the historic district, taking a horse drawn carriage ride, walking along the harbor, and dining on some great seafood. Farmer’s market season is in swing and there was a huge market (at least when compared to scale of most Iowa towns) in Marion park. The fresh strawberries looked delicious – the raw milk less tempting. Vendors were promoting the benefits of raw milk – while I am sure in their minds these were true, I am concerned about the risks inherent in drinking milk that has not been pasteurized. The quick heat treatment kills the bacteria that can cause illness. There are good bacteria of course – am sure you have seen the commercials about pro-biotics in some new yogurt products. But many states don’t allow the sale of raw milk because the science shows it is not safe. South Carolina obviously is one of several states that allow this product to be sold. Me, I wasn’t interested.

April 12, 2010

SafeFood© Awareness

I recently attended a conference about food safety education. Educators, researchers, government agency representatives, and consultants with interest in the topic gathered to share new information and learn from each other. Talk about preaching to the choir! These people get it. It is ironic when groups of these conference attendees eat out and see how sometimes the message isn’t getting to the right people – usually those working front lines in retail foodservices. Managers and other administrators get it; but often time pressures or the hectic nature don’t allow those working in the trenches to practice (assuming they know the right thing to do). So what is the answer?
I propose the work smarter not harder approach. In one of our observational studies, we saw that restaurant workers should wash their hands about 28 times per hour (based on what Food Code dictates as handwashing occasions). Food Code requires a 20-second handwash period – so do the math (28 x 20 seconds is 560 seconds in a 3600 hour – which is 15% or about 10 minutes in each hour). That is a lot of time spent away from production. Line workers can adopt the chef’s approach of mise en place – which is all about planning and organization. Think about tasks to do when hands are dirty – just cleared a table, then take direct to the dish room or bus station, take out trash, handle money etc. If hands are clean, then stay with the task and get someone else to open the refrigerator door or restock new ingredients that are needed. Think separation – between clean and dirty; raw and cooked. Work smarter, not harder!