SafeFood© and the Safe Workplace

When I ask foodservice employees what food safety topics they have been trained on, they often mention topics like knife safety, how to keep from slipping and tripping and avoiding burns.

While those are essential foodservice training topics, when I’m asking about food safety, I’m really looking for answers closer to topics like temperature control, hand hygiene, avoiding cross contamination and how to properly clean and sanitize. I have a feeling that many foodservice employees get a larger dose of workplace safety training than food safety training because of the more frequent employer out-of-pocket costs associated with injured employees. It’s more rare and more difficult to trace back the potentially much more costly foodborne illness outbreak.

Because of this situation, I hesitated to write anything that includes both occupational safety and food safety, but I will add to the muddy waters anyway.

Recently, I dined with my family at a newly opened foodservice establishment.  There was a long line to place our order. I was enjoying the time to observe the restaurant décor and the employees’ behavior.  An employee came from the kitchen area to clean tables in the dining area.  He had a rag in hand and seemed ready to make quick work of it, so I was pretty sure I was not going to see the three-step process — wash, rinse and sanitize.  That didn’t surprise me, but what he did next did.

As he started to wash the first table, he realized his metal safety glove was still on his left hand. The glove was slinky and so cool, looking like an accessory for a medieval suit of armor — a stainless steel mesh glove.  It’s the type of safety glove that has the highest cut resistant rating.  Also, it’s the type of safety glove most foodservice operations aren’t willing to spring for.  The gloves cost around $140 each versus the composite yarn type, which cost closer to $16.

This employee unsnapped the glove and slid it into his back jeans pocket in one quick motion, and continued working.  I’d never seen one of these gloves in use in any foodservice operation I’d managed or those I had observed in.  It made me wonder why this particular operation was willing to give their employees a $140 item to slip into their back pockets.

Here comes the food safety part: Besides being the best protection against employee cuts and perforations, I bet stainless steel mesh gloves are also washable and able to be sanitized in the dish machine. It is not recommended to put composite yarn safety gloves in the dish machine because of their porous nature. But the stainless steel gloves wouldn’t have that issue.  An employee could quickly slide it out of his back pocket, send it through the dish machine (waiting a minute for it to cool and dry), slide it back on his clean vinyl gloved hand and start cutting up ingredients for my order.  I’m hoping that is what happened on this busy Friday night.

Interested in more information about glove use in retail foodservice establishments? Find it here, https://store.extension.iastate.edu/ItemDetail.aspx?ProductID=13084

Janell

Catherine

Catherine

Catherine Hemphill Strohbehn has been a faculty member at Iowa State University in the Hospitality Management Program for 30 years. She is a State Specialist with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach at Iowa State University. As part of her work, she conducts research, develops educational materials and provides programs to help retail foodservices use their resources effectively and ensure safe food is served. Cathy is a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Certified Professional in Food Safety from the National Environmental Health Association.

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SafeFood© and Bleach

With cold and flu season in full swing along with holiday decorations, thought a few pointers about cleaning and sanitizing or disinfecting might be useful. Cleaning to most means a neat and tidy appearance (clutter free surfaces etc) while sanitizing or disinfecting is that next step. We aren’t talking sterile here, like a hospital surgery where there are no bacteria or viruses. Obviously, that wouldn’t be practical for everyday living – we don’t live in bubbles! Sanitizing or disinfecting means reducing microbial loads on clean surfaces or dishware so that if food does come in contact, it won’t pick up a lot of the disease causing micro organisms. Your kitchen floor is probably clean but not sanitized where your counter tops, utensils, and sponges should both.

So, how can we achieve this extra protection? Most dishwashers have hot enough water it will do the trick, just don’t re-contaminate items when unloading the dishwasher. Wash your hands first, handle items by handles, etc. when putting items away.

Household bleach is an economical and convenient sanitizing agent. Be sure the brand contains at least 6% hypochlorite (read the fine print of ingredients) – most do, even store brands. Mix a solution of 1 Tablespoon bleach per gallon of warm water (not super hot) and use to sanitize clean countertops, silverware, sponges, cutting boards or other items. Let these air dry – using a kitchen towel to wipe dry could re-contaminate the surfaces if the towel itself is soiled.  Bleach works in most types of water but it is inactivated quickly if comes in contact with food pieces or other types of soil. It works best if applied to clean items. One Tablespoon with one gallon yields a concentration of 50 – 100 parts per million, which is what is recommended by health inspectors for foodservices. This is not a case where if some is good, more is better because too much can cause some toxicity problems due to too high concentration. Keep in mind, the bleach will break down over time, so mix up only what need at a time. If any left over, pour down kitchen sink and help clean the drains. And wear white!

Catherine

Catherine

Catherine Hemphill Strohbehn has been a faculty member at Iowa State University in the Hospitality Management Program for 30 years. She is a State Specialist with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach at Iowa State University. As part of her work, she conducts research, develops educational materials and provides programs to help retail foodservices use their resources effectively and ensure safe food is served. Cathy is a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Certified Professional in Food Safety from the National Environmental Health Association.

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SafeFood © Clean and Pretty!

Remember the old Mickey Mouse Club TV show (sure you do – Annette? Tommy?) when Mickey would ask “Is everyone clean and pretty? Then, on with the show! ”. I remember this well (and probably explains my fixation with cleaning).

Well, here we are closing out the first decade of the 21st century and proper cleaning is still an issue. In fact, improper cleaning and sanitizing practices are one of the top contributing reasons of how people get a foodborne illness. Don’t you expect to have clean and sanitary silverware and cups when you eat away from home? That is certainly a reasonable expectation. A challenge is that something can look clean just with a spit and polish, literally. We trust that the food establishment has either a high temperature or chemical sanitizing process that is working correctly.

What can you do when you are working at community events? Think about using very hot water (although this could pose some safety issues as very hot means 180° F.) or a chemical such as chlorine. A recipe for chlorine sanitizer that is safe for food contact surfaces is one tablespoon per one gallon of warm water. More is not better; too much chemical and there is risk of toxicity.
Clean and Pretty – Mickey was right! I knew those hours watching the Mickey Mouse Club were not wasted! All together now:
Who’s the leader of the club
That’s made for you and me?
M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E!
Hey, there! Hi, there! Ho, there!
You’re as welcome as can be!
M–I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E
submitted by Catherine Strohbehn, MM Club Fan of early 1960’s and food safety specialist

Catherine

Catherine

Catherine Hemphill Strohbehn has been a faculty member at Iowa State University in the Hospitality Management Program for 30 years. She is a State Specialist with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach at Iowa State University. As part of her work, she conducts research, develops educational materials and provides programs to help retail foodservices use their resources effectively and ensure safe food is served. Cathy is a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Certified Professional in Food Safety from the National Environmental Health Association.

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SafeFood© at The Office

No, this is not about the hit TV show, although there are plenty of opportunities to infuse some food safety messages into the scripts. This is about the real-life office kitchen. Most work places have a sink, coffee maker, dish rags, refrigerator, cooking unit of some type, (crock pot, toaster oven or hot plate) and of course a place to eat. Some are kept clean and tidy – and others look like kitchens of college students. A LOT of people usually just eat in at the office lunch room or at their desk rather than heading out – particularly in the tough economy and with increased work responsibilities. And a LOT of people from the office also get sick with colds or flu, or even a foodborne illness – coincidence, or not? So, how did admiral intentions (working at your desk) turn into something with bad consequences?

Think about the cleanliness of the office kitchen area – what is extent of dirty dish clutter, soiled cloths (ironically used for cleaning) or food that is way past its prime stored in the refrigerator? Is there joint ownership in keeping the area clean – or does the first to get Yucked usually take care of it?

What can you do? Wash your hands with soap and warm water when you enter the kitchen – consider that the golden rule. Put your food on a paper towel rather than counter. Earmark your own dishware and silver rather than using community items.

Lets go further and help others. Get supplies on hand for cleaning – detergent soap, dish rack, chlorine bleach and sponge. Wipe down counters after use and once a week disinfect with a tablespoon of bleach mixed in gallon of warm water. (Not a bad idea for your own work areas also – the microbial gunk found on computer keyboards was a discouraging finding from a swab study a few years back). Toss all foods left at end of work week. Have a designated cloth washer (someone to take home at least at end of week, if not before). Research findings have also shown high transference of germs from “cleaning cloths” onto food contact surfaces.

There is always someone who needs remedial coaching on good hygiene practices. Put peer pressure to work – encourage personal use of items. Cry “foul” when someone double dips from a common bowl or doesn’t cough or sneeze into their sleeve. Collegiality in the work place is good – but sharing of our germs is not!

Catherine

Catherine

Catherine Hemphill Strohbehn has been a faculty member at Iowa State University in the Hospitality Management Program for 30 years. She is a State Specialist with Human Sciences Extension and Outreach at Iowa State University. As part of her work, she conducts research, develops educational materials and provides programs to help retail foodservices use their resources effectively and ensure safe food is served. Cathy is a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a Certified Professional in Food Safety from the National Environmental Health Association.

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