How Safe is Community Service Prepared Food?

You may have read the headlines.

(CBS News) A food poisoning outbreak from turkey served at the Denver Rescue Mission has sent more than 50 people to the hospital for treatment.

(ABC News) “Authorities believe food poisoning caused more than 100 people to become sick following a potluck dinner at a Mormon church in Nevada over the weekend.”

“About 50 people were taken to Salt Lake City hospitals Sunday night after reports of food poisoning at a homeless shelter.”

Well intentioned, kind and community spirited people offer their generous time, talents and monies to help others, but sometimes the lack of food safety knowledge, experience and/or attention to food safety practices can cause misery.

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How Safe is the Food Served in our Schools?

We all want our children and grandchildren to be safe when they attend school.

But news headlines cause concern: “Workers blamed for food poisoning at Waipahu Elementary School”, “Questions Remain over Hollister High School Illness Outbreak”, “Food Poisoning Outbreak at Stanford — Norovirus Suspected”, ”Investigation Continues into what Sidelined 58 Teachers in Catered Luncheon.

For school administrators, teachers, parents and grandparents the headlines raise doubt.

USDA
Source: USDA

What is the frequency of these outbreaks?

In a 2016 CDC report there were nine outbreaks in 2014.

In the most recent CDC report August 2017 there were 16 food borne illness school outbreaks with 622 illnesses. While the reports are based on data that is two years old this is an increase from the previous year’s report.

What are deeper root causes?

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How Clean Are Those Stadiums?

We had a first-time experience at the Denver Broncos stadium within the last month. It was fun. Getting there early, we had our first brat and lathered it with condiments at the condiment table. No problem. At half-time we ordered another brat but had to wait while it was thawed out and then cooked. OK. But the condiment table looked like a bomb had exploded. I passed on the condiments and ate the brat and bread dry.

I have to ask, have you ever wondered about food safety at the stadium?

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Why Bother Using a Food Thermometer When Cooking or Holding Food?

In the most recent data Annual Report from the CDC, published August 2017, the most common causes of food borne illness identified were related to improper cooking with:

  • “poor temperature control”
  • “insufficient time or temperature while cooking or heating”
  • “improper holding temperatures”
  • “eating contaminated raw, undercooked or under processed foods.

I conclude that to reduce the chances of getting your guests sick, be cautious about temperatures and use a food thermometer for cooking and holding. It really is quite simple.

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How Often Do Food Handlers Work While Ill?

An ill food handler causes nearly 50% of all restaurant-related outbreaks.

While the study is now a few years old, as reported by State and Federal Environmental Health Specialists:

Many restaurant policies concerning ill food workers do not follow FDA recommendations.

Food Handler

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How Do Food Handlers Rate Their Own Food Safety Practices?

Risky food preparation practices were commonly reported by food service workers and reported in a study conducted by Environmental Health Specialists at the State and Federal level.

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When asked key hygiene questions, food workers said that at work:

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Where Are We Most Likely to Get Food Borne Illness and Why?

In the 2015 (most recent data) Annual Report from the CDC, published August 2017, there were 902 food borne illness outbreaks in the USA with Norovirus being the most confirmed, single cause. Sixty (60%) percent were traced to restaurants. Sit-down dining establishments accounted for nearly half of the restaurant sources.

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Choosing Safe Food While Traveling Internationally

My wife and I returned from a trip to Baltic region of northern Europe. I didn’t want anything to steal from the precious moments so, amongst other things, while there, I was constantly cognizant of food safety.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a universal food safety grade you could reference when traveling internationally? Now you do in the USA, Canada and the U.K.

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Choosing Safe Lodging Breakfast Food

We like staying in motels that offer breakfast. It’s convenient and it saves money. Can’t beat that. But how clean and how healthy is that breakfast food?

It is reassuring that the respective Health Departments do food safety inspections and often post the results for the public. Unfortunately there are many Health Departments that do not post these scores.

Yet, a quick Google search reveals that many people complain of getting food borne illness after eating in a lodging establishment.

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Choosing Safe Fast Food When Traveling by Automobile

If your traveling by automobile with a family, it is tempting to pack a cooler with foods. With three kids, now adults, we always did.

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