During National Food Safety Education Month is it time for Your Food Safety Refresher?

You see them in every restaurant and commercial foodservice operation across the United States. Framed and proudly displayed, often by the kitchen, the cashier, the kitchen entrance, or the service counter – just as they should be.  To what am I referring? The food safety certification certificates, of course!

I’ve visited with many operators across the country, and some are not aware that certification is a requirement in the FDA model food code, which is adopted by many states.  It is spelled out in Section 2-102.11 and 2-102.12 of the Food Code.  Section 2-102.11 covers the demonstration of food safety knowledge, while 2-102.12 spells out that the person in charge shall be a certified food safety protection manager. Section 2-102.20 notes that if the person in charge has accreditation from any of the certified agencies, they are deemed to have met the requirements in section 2-102.11 and 2-102.12.  Often in the industry, you will hear managers or employees note that this means ServSafe.  While ServSafe is likely the most universally recognized, they are certainly not the only player in the certification game.  There are six different certification exams which are evaluated and listed by the Conference for Food Protection.  Check out my previous blogs where I discussed the certification exam options available to foodservice managers and employees.

I’ve worked with many foodservice operators in helping them certify their employees in food safety and it is a critical step in protecting your guests from a foodborne illness. If you’ve read any of our blogs, you’ve likely seen us discuss much more than just certification, because it isn’t the end-all and be-all of food safety.  It really should be the beginning of your food safety education journey.

Certification is important, but it isn’t the end-all and be-all of food safety.  It really should be the beginning of your food safety education journey!

I say this should be the beginning of your journey based off much of the research we have done in the food safety arena. In fact, our research of actual employees after having gone through training has suggested that food safety certification does little to change actual long-term on-the-job behavior.  I think many seasoned managers might agree with this if they observed their employees at work one to two months after they return to the job. Often, they fall back into the norms in that foodservice operation. Foodservice operations with positive norms or a positive food safety culture as we often call it, will often have better practices. The converse is true in an operation that does not support positive food safety practices. However, if employees are ever going to improve behavior, we must lay the fundamental knowledge at the base – and this starts with a certification exam.

This is why the certification programs are so important. And this is also why laying a good knowledge foundation for proper food safety practices is vital for managers in developing their food safety culture.  So, during the last few weeks of food safety month, take time for a food safety refresher and make sure you and your employees are at the top of their game. If you need some questions to guide your thinking about food safety, here are a few to start:

  1. What are the top three causes of foodborne illness?
  2. What are four pathogens that are of concern in a foodservice operation?
  3. What is the end-point cooking temperatures for the proteins you serve in your foodservice operation?
  4. What is the proper cooling procedure for food?
  5. What is the proper way to wash your hands and when should handwashing be done?
  6. What is the holding temperature for hot food? Cold food?
  7. What is the receiving temperature for eggs?
  8. When do you restrict an employee who reports exposure to Norovirus, STEC, or Shigella?
  9. How long can you keep Ready-to-Eat, Time/Temperature Control for Safety Food on the premises?
  10. What are the requirements for using time as a public health control?

Perhaps these were all easy for you – if so, congratulations.  If not and a few of these stumbled you up, spend a few hours brushing up on your food safety knowledge and be sure to encourage your key employees to do the same.

If you haven’t already checked it out, be sure to watch the latest installment in the SafeBites Food Safety Webinar, “Creating Clarity for Exceptional Food Safety Results”, presented by Dr. Brett Horton. If you are watching it for the Continued Education credit, please submit a SafeBites Certificate Request after you have watched 100% of the archived webinar.  Also, be sure to reach out with ideas for upcoming webinars, we love hearing your ideas. Risk Nothing.