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Customers’ and Employees’ Allergies in Foodservice Operations

When we began our careers in foodservice management many years ago, allergies were not very commonplace.  Yes, occasionally there were customers who had a random allergy – peanuts, or perhaps MSG (which is actually an intolerance) – but nothing like what goes on today in most food operations, with both customers and employees dealing with potential deadly reactions to either food or materials. Dealing with allergies and intolerances are now a common concern among foodservice operators across the country.  And this concern is warranted as recent research indicates almost 11% of adults have a food allergy [1]. Those working in school nutrition are well aware that between 1997 and 2011, the prevalence of food allergies among those under 18 years of age increased by more…

Produce Safety: A Growing Concern

Fifteen to 20 years ago, if you would have asked a restaurant manager about food safety, she or he would have likely engaged you in a deep conversation about end-point cooking temperatures of meat and poultry products, limiting cross contamination, and the temperature danger zone.  Missing from the conversation would have been much, if any, discussion about fresh produce safety. Then, we didn’t think anyone could get sick from lettuce or tomatoes. Then in 2006 – we had the BIG bagged lettuce national outbreak followed by outbreaks of listeria and salmonella from cantaloupes in 2011 and 2012. Now, we know better. Fast forward to 2020 and attention to produce safety is something of which foodservice operations are very mindful.  Produce-related outbreaks account for around half...

Welcoming Guests Back into Your Establishments

After three long months suffering through the COVID-19 pandemic, we are finally starting to see restaurants and other foodservices across the United States begin to reopen operations.  It is likely that more and more restrictions will be lifted across the country in the next few months with operations trying to recover from losses of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Last month in our blogs, we discussed getting back to the basics in terms of employee health and hygiene, temperature controls, and cleaning and sanitizing fundamentals. This month, we expand on that discussion and merge with guidance offered by health authorities for reopening, and elaborate on a few resources available for foodservices, compliments of FoodHandler.  Several entities have started to release guidance, including the Food and Drug Administration,…

Cleaning and Sanitizing in a Mid- to Post-Coronavirus World

What have we learned from this Coronavirus pandemic?  In many ways, it is still too early to tell.  At this writing, many foodservice operations across the country are still closed.  Some are just starting to reopen. Others have transitioned to car side or curbside to-go and have been operating with a skeleton crew throughout the worst of the pandemic.  As you get ready to reopen operations to the public or start serving students again, let’s discuss one that is sure to get noticed by everyone – how food contact and non-food contact surfaces are cleaned and sanitized.  For years, we preached the importance of first cleaning and then sanitizing food contact surfaces.  But now, in our mid- to post-Coronavirus world, we must be mindful to…

Accountability Supports Food Safety Culture

With the low unemployment numbers, and competition for good workers, many managers may choose to look the other way when staff do not complete tasks when and how they should. You may recall the parent who tells the little scamp, I’m going to count to three – one, two, two and a half, two and three quarters, etc. – only to find there is no change in behavior. That little scamp may well end up in juvie because he/she was never held accountable for behavior – the parents always looked the other way just to keep the peace. But a failure to act has unintended consequences, not just for the child, but for others in the family. It is the same in any foodservice operation–lack…

Recipe for a Positive Food Safety Culture

For the past few years, we have referred to the importance of developing a positive food safety culture within foodservice operations. The workplace culture is basically a reflection of “this is what and how we do things here”.  Manufacturing and construction companies often proudly post the number of days “accident free” as a reflection of their workplace safety culture.  In foodservice though, everyday has to be foodborne illness free – otherwise the operation may not be in business for long! So what are the elements of a positive food safety culture? In past work at Iowa State University, a doctoral student led focus groups within various types of foodservices to identify elements of a food safety culture in order to better define the pieces of…

Achieving Food Safety Vision 2020

Once you have a vision of what your 2020 Food Safety Program should be, it is time to implement that vision.  Some of you may already have a great food safety program that just needs some tweaks. Others may not have a formal food safety program. Whatever your situation, here are some ideas for achieving a good food safety vision. First, take small steps in implementing your plan.  Workers may resist massive changes to their work routine, so start with a small, but important practice.  Your first emphasis might be on handwashing if you observe that employees are just not doing enough handwashing or not doing it correctly.  After all, that may be the most basic and important behavior for employees.  This time of year,…

Food Safety: Vision 2020

When we hear the words 2020, we usually think of having perfect vision.  Periodically, we go to the eye doctor to have our eyes checked to make sure our vision is good.  And, many of us have prescription lenses to recalibrate our eyes so that our vision is as near 2020 as possible. What is your vision for your food safety plan?  Is it in perfect focus?  Things change, so have you done any recalibrations to make sure that your plan still meets the changing needs of your operation?  Just like going to the eye doctor for a check-up, we need to evaluate how we are doing in the area of food safety, and make adjustments to make sure our vision is clear and that…

Keep Ready-to-Eat Foods Safe

In our first blog for February, we identified some of the risks with ready-to-eat foods. RTE does not mean risk free! We pointed out that food processors have implemented food safety plans that use good manufacturing and good handling practices (GMPs and GHPs). Foodservices often purchase RTE foods to avoid some risk in-house. In fact, many schools do not purchase raw protein foods because of risks from under cooking and cross-contamination. But there are still risks from temperature abuse due to improper holding and from contamination that occurs intentionally, or unintentionally, from employee practices or unclean equipment. So, what prevention steps can be taken? Avoiding temperature abuse means having calibrated temperature measuring devices readily available and staff knowing how to use these. It means knowing…

Ready-to-Eat Foods: Are they Risky?

Those of us familiar with the retail food industry are well aware of potential risks associated with ready-to-eat foods. We recognize that any food can present risks if it is not handled correctly. Yet, our circles of family and friends outside the world of foodservice may not have this awareness. Sure, most folks know that meat, poultry, and dairy foods should be kept in the refrigerator. Yes, they know the importance of cooking meats (but you may get differences of opinion on what “done” means; quiz wait staff what temperature ‘medium well’ is and you might get some surprising answers!). What seems to go over the head of many consumers (and even some TV chefs) is the importance of handling ready-to-eat foods – or RTE…

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