SafeFood© No Time

Remember the classic Guess Who song – No time? That song struck a chord while I helped with a charity dinner recently. While I know a thing or two about safe food handling practices and usually ‘do the right thing’, doing the right thing when there are a zillion other items needing your attention, is a bit more of a challenge.

It is easy to see why there are so many food borne illnesses due to poor personal hygiene and improper food handling. What is the answer?

A logical response is to plan – make sure people know what they are doing and can focus on one thing at a time. This will work for routine daily operations.

Is the answer to have more people working? With volunteer situations, this really depends – how willing are the volunteers to wash their hands properly or not sample the products? Do the volunteers know how to clean or use a thermometer properly? For routine operations, more labor means more money spent for employees – and with the competitive market, mandated hourly wages, and low profit margins – this can make or break a business. That said, it is a rare business that recovers from a headline about people getting sick from their restaurant so having enough folks on hand to work safely is preventative medicine.

The design of the kitchen could make a difference – having to navigate across the kitchen (dodging hot pans and sharp knives) to wash hands does not make it a user-friendly activity. Available sinks (with soap and disposable towels) for hand washing strategically located could make a difference.

Time for food safety has to be routine. You work time in your busy schedule to brush teeth and other routine hygiene practices (at least your co-workers hope you do)! It must be done for safe food handling – we can’t risk No Time for SafeFood©.



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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