Foodborne illness can occur when people eat contaminated food. Bacteria, viruses, chemicals and physical elements like dirt and hair are all food contaminants. According to the Centers for Disease Control, foodborne illness sickens 48 million people every year. An estimated 128 million people end up in the hospital and about 3,000 people die. All of this points to a need for better food safety practices. If you work in food service or just enjoy dining out, how much do you know about food safety?
Do you know easy it is to contaminate food?
There are many actions on the part of food handlers that lead to contaminated food. Bacteria and viruses are pathogens that grow easily under the right conditions and are also spread by careless food handling practices. Preparing food without washing the hands thoroughly can transmit bacteria to food. Handling raw meat and then handling ready-to-eat food can contaminate the ready-to-eat food. Failing to cook food to the proper temperatures, leaving cooked food out too long, and thawing food on a counter are all practices that can lead to foodborne illness.
Did you know that employees can contaminate food when they come to work sick?
There are illnesses that require food service workers to be excluded from the food service workplace. Food Service employees who have these illnesses should remain at home or be sent home if they report to work with certain symptoms. In some cases, workers need the approval of the local public health department and a physician before returning to work. Illnesses that require employees be excluded from work include Norovirus, Hepatitis A, Shigella, Salmonella Typhi, and Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia Coli. Food service employees with symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea should be excluded even if an illness has not been diagnosed. Employees who care for sick family members with diarrhea and vomiting can also contaminate food even if they show no symptoms themselves. Foodborne illness outbreaks have been attributed to employees reporting to work after caring for sick family members.
Did you know that failing to clean and sanitize food contact surfaces can cause foodborne illness?
Cross-contamination is another way food becomes contaminated in restaurants. Cross-contamination is the transfer of pathogens from one food contact service to another or from a contaminated food contact surface to food. When an employee uses a prep table to prepare meat and simply wipes it off before preparing vegetables, the vegetables will be contaminated. Workers should take the following steps to sanitize food contact surfaces after prepping food and before prepping a new food.
- Scrape or rinse any food residue from the surface
- Wash the items in hot soapy water
- Rinse the items in clean water
- Sanitize the items using sanitizing solution mixed to the proper concentration
- Air dry the items before use
Did you know that alcohol must be served safely?
Not only should food service workers practice safe food handling practices. Bartenders and drink servers should know when to stop serving alcohol to a patron. Many owners, managers and servers are not aware that there are training and certification programs available to help workers avoid serving customers too much alcohol. TABC certification is designed to teach employees how to sell and serve alcohol safely and is an important step in keeping customers safe.