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 the Health Inspector’s Lunch

Recently I took a two-day class presented by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration called Risk-Based Inspections Methods at Retail. The training was well-presented and surprisingly well-structured.  And, more importantly, the topic was interesting and I learned something. The class was helpful in expanded my understanding of a regulator’s perspective.  It was everything one would want in a professional development opportunity.

I’d like to share one resource they said anyone was welcome to use. It was a prerequisite for the class, the FDA’s Communication Skills for Regulators web-based course, http://www.humtech.com/FDA/FDAcourses/CommRegulators/.  It would be informative and useful for almost anyone to take this refresher on communicating with others, especially those in the hospitality industry.

So the class was great, but for me the best part was tagging along to lunch with real-life health inspectors.  The first day about half of the class filled up the dining room of a Mexican fast food operation.  I wanted to go to the counter and ask the staff if they realized the great honor that had been bestowed upon them, but I admirably restrained myself.  The second day just a few of us went to a mom-and-pop diner where I was assured that the kitchen staff would “touch my food,” (e.g., bare-hand contact).  Even health inspectors need their comfort food.  (Even so, I steered clear of the salad and ordered something cooked.)

Hopefully with the emerging risk-based inspections philosophy, the mom-and-pops and everyone else in the industry will more fully understand their important role in Active Managerial Control of Risk Factors.

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© at the Movies

We can all agree that movies are entertaining (usually), and some even sneak in a social message or two. Now, that is Edutainment! For instance, Gone with the Wind provided us with a personal perspective of the Civil War, Rocky inspired us to run up flights of steps, Juno showcased teen pregnancy, and even more recently, the movie Flash of Genius illustrated the concept of intellectual property.

But, how many movies teach us about personal hygiene? How often do you see folks properly washing their hands before eating a snack or sitting at the dinner table, after petting the dog, or using the bathroom? Movies have embraced social messages before – think of the films of yesteryear when ALL the stars smoked, but today – not so much (unless it is the bad guys/gals).
So, what if Brad and Angelina; Hannah Montana, and Two and a Half Men demonstrated proper handwashing? Or what if Law and Order or CSI showed a death due to foodborne illness? Would it make a difference? I think so. Hollywood, have your people call.

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© Sabotaged – Continued

In the recent blog, I shared a story – one that I hope never happens to anyone else. Based on my experiences with carpenters, plumbers, flooring, and other household home repair type of workers, I doubt that it will. Most of them that I have shared the story with have been appropriately aghast.

But it does raise some questions – such as “what would possess someone to act like that?” And, to me, even worse, was the lack of remorse or sense of any wrong doing. Is it a generational thing? This guy is late 20’ish – so maybe still at stage of rebelling and “animal house” antics. What is scary is that we may have many people working in retail foodservices with the same approach to hygiene – those that might think nothing of licking their fingers as they dish your cream pie.

So – to paraphrase the famous song of Willie Nelson: Mamas (and Daddies), don’t let your boys (and girls) grow up to be slobs!

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© Do Appearances Matter?

During a TV ad for a national restaurant chain, a conversation about restaurant employee appearances began. Why? Well, I noted that someone at the corporate office must have had a screw loose to ok this ad with female wait staff members (note plural) with unrestrained long hair shown happily serving guests. I am glad they were happy while doing their jobs but as a customer, I would not have been happy with the hair hovering over my food. I am not aware of any foodborne illness traced back to hair in the food, but you have to admit it is not a good merchandising technique.

Because Food Code says all food handlers must effectively restrain their hair, I assume the restaurant has a policy about this. So, where is the boss? Food Code also does not allow any jewelry (except a plain ring band) – so why do I often see (and hear others comment) about food workers with nose rings, necklaces, etc? Fingernail polish also should not be worn – yet this piece of information is often news to those working in operations.

Individual expression is fine, but if I were the owner of a restaurant, I would expect staff to understand that they represent the restaurant – and if there is not a customer coming through the door, then there is no business. Cultural and ethnic expressions or norms SHOULD NOT TRUMP the science-based recommendations of Food Code, which are in place to protect the public’s health.

Clearly defining expectations in terms of attire and appearance, and then monitoring to be sure these are met is managements’ job. It is the employees’ job to meet these. If these fundamentals get in the way of an employee’s self-expression, then perhaps that employee should be working elsewhere. For the sake of your customers, please work together – appearances do matter.

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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