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Healthy Employees Keep Food Safe

Last month we talked about norovirus, the leading cause of foodborne illness outbreaks. Today we will turn our attention to overall employee health, and its role in keeping food safe. Many of you who are in my generation can relate to the fact that you rarely called in to work sick, and when you did you probably couldn’t get out of bed. You may also relate to being a manager and discouraging people from calling in sick because it was so difficult to be short-handed. Well, that mind set just has to change for the health of everyone! Employees who are ill can spread bacteria and viruses, possibly contributing to foodborne illness. While everyone who eats in your operation is susceptible to foodborne illness, individuals…

Be Prepared—Norovirus Clean-Up Procedures

We are used to daily cleaning and sanitizing procedures, but norovirus clean-up is very different so it is important to be prepared. You should use these procedures if a norovirus outbreak occurs in your operation or if there is any vomiting event.   You might be asking how do you know that norovirus was the cause of a vomiting incident. Well, at the time it occurs you won’t know. So the appropriate action is to assume that all vomiting may be caused by norovirus and clean it up as if it were. It is always better to err on the side of caution. Have a Body Fluid Clean-Up Kit on Hand Many of your food distributors are now offering clean-up kits for sale. You can purchase…

Tis the Season!

Tis the Season! Here it is January, so I bet you all think I have lost my mind! Hanukkah is over, Christmas is over, and the New Year has been rung in—so what in the world? Well, it is cold and flu season—and NOROVIRUS season. While norovirus can occur anytime, the incidence goes up dramatically between late October and April. So, it is important to brush up on norovirus in order to control it in your operation. Norovirus is a common virus that causes diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, stomach pain, headaches, and body aches. Often people think they have the “flu” when it is really norovirus. It is so common that it accounts for more than half of the known cases of foodborne illness outbreaks. It…

The Politics of Food Safety – Part Two

Hi everyone. Keeping with the theme of politics, our blog postings for the month of November are about food safety regulations. In the first blog, we provided background on agencies and their oversight for different foods. In this blog, we are covering elements of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that was signed into law January of 2011. FSMA was heralded as significant food safety legislation as it enhanced and expanded regulatory oversight. FSMA consists of Seven Rules: Preventative Controls for Human and Animal Foods; Produce Safety Rule; Foreign Supplier Verification Programs; Accreditation of Third-Party Auditors/Certification Bodies; Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food; and Prevention of Intentional Contamination/Adulteration. Most of these Rules affected production, processing, and transportation links of the food chain. While foodservices…

The Politics of Food Safety – Part One

Well, unless you have had your ear buds in and have sequestered yourself from all media, you are aware that November is Election Month! November 6th is the day that voters across the country will weigh in on their representation at local, state, and national levels. Given this frenzy, Jeannie and I thought the politics of food safety would be a great blog theme for this month. Specifically, we will cover the “what” and “why” of legislative actions designed to improve the safety of food from farm to fork. History Lesson Let’s start at the beginning. In 1906, muck-racking journalism was alive and well, and a little book called “The Jungle”, written by Upton Sinclair, was published. The book vividly described the, shall we say,…

Evaluating Food Safety

One of the suggestions I made in the last blog was to assess the food safety culture in your organization by observing the food handling techniques of workers. Let’s explore that some more. You can do an overall assessment or you can hone in on specific areas of the operation, such as production or cleaning practices. Remember, when the environmental health inspector visits your operation, he/she just gets a snapshot of what is going on in your operation on that particular day at that specific time. You are there nearly every day, so you have a much better understanding on what really happens in your operation. For our purposes today, let’s focus on the practice of glove use because we know how important the correct…

Produce Safety: Special Considerations

In our last blog, I talked about general produce safety. Today, I want to talk about some special products—melons, tomatoes, leafy greens, and sprouts. These are all foods that have a history of bacterial contamination leading to foodborne illness. I also want to discuss salad bars because they have some special risks. Melons. Cantaloupe is the melon of most concern because it has a webbed rind, and bacteria are easily trapped in that webbing resulting in contamination of the meat of the melon. Many people (maybe some of your staff) think that they eliminate any hazard because they cut away the rind—but that is not the case. In fact, some of our observational research showed staff routinely skipping the wash step for many vegetables with…

Fresh and Tasty Produce, but are there Food Safety Concerns?

One of the best things about the middle of summer is the wonderful variety of tasty fresh produce that is available. I hope you are enjoying the fruits of the harvest because it has great flavor and provides us with a variety of important vitamins, minerals, and fiber needed to maintain good health. Unfortunately, there are also some food safety risks that come with all of the good qualities of fresh produce. Just this year, we have heard the stories of E. coli in romaine lettuce and several cases of foodborne illness due to a parasite (Cyclospora) in fresh cut vegetables and salads sold in quick service restaurants and grocery and convenience stores. In recent years, we have also seen outbreaks related to tomatoes, sprouts,...

SafeBites Time and Temperature Control: Why & When

Hi Everyone – Cathy here. Having written the SafeFood Blog for Iowa State University for over ten years, I am happy to have the opportunity to work with FoodHandler in my retirement. Jeannie and I share with FoodHandler a passion for making sure food served is safe. You might recall in the June blogs, Jeannie presented the Top 5 reasons why food becomes unsafe, and she discussed controls for two of those in efforts to reduce risk of cross contamination leading to a foodborne illness. In this month’s blog, the topic of preventing temperature abuse of foods will be covered. This week, the focus is on the “why” and “when” of time and temperature controls. The second blog in July will identify some action steps...

Mitigation Strategies for Cross Contamination

In our last blog, we talked about cross contamination, including the related risks and sources. Our focus today will be on some of the major strategies that can be used to mitigate cross contamination in a foodservice operation. Before we talk about those strategies, it is important to discuss the role of the management staff in controlling cross contamination. Owners and managers play a key role in food handling behaviors that occur in any foodservice operation. They are the ones who develop food safety policies, procedures, and expectations; provide training; and supervise employees on a daily basis. Each of these functions, which is part of providing active managerial control, will make the difference between a strong, or a weak, food safety program. Now, let’s talk…

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