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How to Get Your Allergen Awareness Certificate

Food allergens are an important component of food safety training. Over 15 million Americans have some sort of food allergy, with reactions ranging from mild to deadly. Allergen Awareness training teaches you how to prevent cross-contact with food allergens, as well as what to do if someone has an allergic reaction in your restaurant.

Allergen training is starting to become a requirement in more and more places, but how do you become certified?

Here is what to expect when getting your allergen certification.

Which states require food allergen training?

First off, which states have made food allergen training a legal requirement?

Currently, there are 5 states and 1 county that require allergen training, along with some other local jurisdictions, and this number is only growing. These states and counties include:

  •        Illinois
  •        Michigan
  •        Rhode Island
  •        Massachusetts
  •        Virginia
  •        Montgomery County, Maryland

However, if you are not in one of these states or counties, you should still consider taking allergen training, as being aware and knowledgeable about food allergies and how to safely prepare allergen free food could help prevent an allergic reaction.

Complete an Allergen Awareness Course

Either you or your employer will purchase an allergen awareness course for you to go through and complete before the exam. Training programs should be accredited by ANSI in order to be accepted by your local health department.

Pass Your Exam

Once you complete your allergen training, it’s time to take your exam. Go over any materials you may need to pass and get certified.

Get Your Certificate

After you get your exam score back and you’ve passed, you will be allergen certified and will receive a certificate. You certificate shows that you have completed food allergen training, and your local health department can verify.

How long is the certification good for?

Allergen certificates are good for 3 years. After 3 years, you will need to be re-tested to brush up on your allergen prevention knowledge.

 

Ready to get certified? Sign up for Always Food Safe’s Allergen Awareness Training to get started today.

How to Pass Your Food Manager Certification Exam

For many people, exams can be nerve-wracking. Sometimes, you might not even know where or how to start preparing.

The Food Protection Manager Certification exam is no different. Going in blind could negatively affect your ability to succeed and pass your exam on the first try.

Preparing for an exam can be a lot of stress and work, but it’s worth it. Before you make it to exam day, increase your chances of passing by following these tips.

What does the exam look like?

First off, what does the exam actually look like? Always Food Safe’s food protection manager exam is 80 questions, and you are given 2 hours to complete it. All questions are multiple choice.

The minimum passing score is 70%.

Our Manager FAQ has a chart breaking down what topics are covered in the exam.

Complete your Food Manager Training

Depending on your state’s requirements, you may not need to take a food protection manager course if you have in the past. However, even if you have taken a training course before, taking the course again can be a good refresher. It can help you brush up on the knowledge you need to pass the food manager exam. The course can also let you know about any food code changes that may have occurred since the last time you took the exam.

Think you’re too busy to take a course? Online courses can give you more flexibility and the ability work with your schedule.

Review the Material

Do whatever helps you study best. This could be flash cards, rereading or rewatching parts of the course, studying with a friend, or going over notes. This is really up to you, based off of your learning style and study preferences.

Take a Practice Exam

One useful study tool for any test is to take a practice exam. Food manager practice exams can help you gauge how well you know the material that will be on the exam. If you take the practice exam like you would the real exam, without notes or looking up answers, you can get your score to see if you would have passed. Based off that, you can tell if you need to study more, as well as what areas of knowledge you need to review more in depth.

Practice exams can also help you get more comfortable with the format of the exam and how the questions will be worded so you are better prepared and know what to expect on exam day.

Always Food Safe offers a complimentary practice exam with our food protection manager program in order to help you better prepare yourself for the food protection manager exam.

 

Think you’re ready to get your food manager certification? Learn more about our food protection manager training.

Top 6 Safe Food Handling Practices

There is a lot of information out there about food safety, but what are the most important things to remember to handle food safely?

Here are 6 of the most important practices to implement when handling food that will help ensure that you are not spreading foodborne illnesses to the customers you are serving.

Wash your hands

The first thing you can do to handle food safely is wash your hands. Good personal hygiene helps prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses, and something as simple as washing your hands before handling food and between tasks can drastically reduce the risk of food poisoning.

Sanitize Surfaces

Use sanitizer on hand contact and food contact surfaces. This includes all food prep surfaces, as well as cooking utensils. This will kill or reduce the amount of bacteria that may be lingering.

Separate Raw and Ready-to-eat Food

Use separate cutting boards and utensils for different foods, such as produce and poultry, to avoid cross-contamination.

Another way to prevent cross-contamination is to make sure that raw and ready-to-eat foods are stored separately so bacteria is not transferred from the raw foods onto the ready-to-eat foods.

Check Internal Temperature

Bacteria can multiply at the right temperatures, so to avoid food sitting in the temperature danger zone for too long, it is important to make sure that meat and poultry and cooked to their minimum internal temperature.

Store Food at Proper Temperature

When refrigerating food, the refrigerator should be below 41°F to keep bacteria from multiplying at an exponential rate.

Stay Educated

Food handlers should stay up to date on their food safety training, knowing the best practices to prevent food poisoning, symptoms of food poisoning, and major foodborne illnesses they should look out for.

4 Tips to Avoid a Food Allergy Scare This Halloween

jack-o-lantern

Halloween is a spooky time of year, but it is even spookier for children with food allergies. Candy and sweets can be a source of hidden food allergens, putting children with allergies at risk.

Candy often includes some of the 8 main food allergens such as milk, soy, wheat, tree nuts, eggs, and peanuts. It can be hard to tell whether or not an allergen is present, or even if there are small traces of it in any treat.

It is up to you to protect your child from experiencing an allergic reaction this time of year. Follow these tips to make Halloween safe, but still fun, for children with food allergies.

Have Non-Food Goodies

Have toys, stickers, or other non-food goodies available so that your child does not feel left out. You can also make these available to other trick-or-treaters who have food allergies so they can also join in on the fun while remaining safe.

Bring Your Own Snacks Along

When you are out an about trick-or-treating, bring your own snacks along that you know are safe for your child to eat. Implement a rule that they can’t eat the candy they receive trick-or-treating on the road and give them the candy that you know for sure is safe instead.

Carefully Read the Label

After Trick-or-Treating, sort through your child’s candy and read the labels thoroughly. It’s a good idea to know alternate names for food allergens in case they are hidden somewhere in the ingredients list.

Also check if the candy label says anything about being produced in the same facility as something your child is allergic to. It could contain small traces of the allergen, which could trigger an allergic reaction.

“Trade In” Unsafe Candy

Have candy or non-food treats that are safe for your child to eat ready so that they can “trade in” any candy containing allergens for something that won’t harm them and they will love.

Take Your Food Manager Certification Exam in Spanish

Exams can be nerve wrecking as you are preparing and studying the material. Another layer of added stress can be having to take the exam in your second language.

Always Food Safe has a Spanish version of our food manager course, and now offers a Spanish version of our food protection manager certification exam so that Spanish speakers can get certified entirely in their first language.

Having a course and test available in your first language helps not just with comprehension—it keeps learners more focused and motivated. Learners may also have prior knowledge in their native language that they can build off of and pick up new concepts easily.

Learn more about Always Food Safe’s online, video based manager training and exam, which now can be taken entirely in Spanish.

Tips on When to Throw Food Out

The USDA estimates that in America, $161 billion worth of food gets thrown out every year.

Correct storage procedures can prevent you from having to throw out so much food, but inevitably, you will have to toss some of your food. Knowing how long food can be stored and the physical signs that food has gone bad will ensure that you are not serving spoiled food and exposing your customers to pathogens that could lead to foodborne illnesses.

Food Storage

Knowing how long food can be stored or held before having to be discarded is an important part of FDA food code.

Refrigerate leftovers for 7 days max

FDA code states that prepared foods can be stored in the refrigerator for 7 days max. Be sure to properly label the date to ensure you know when to throw it out.

TCS foods left out more than 2 hours

Time and temperature controlled (TCS) foods are at a higher risk of developing a large amount of pathogenic bacteria when left in the temperature danger zone (41°F - 140°F) for longer than 2 hours. If a TCS food is left out for longer than that, discard it.

Past the use by date

Be sure to check the use by date before you use the food to see if it is still safe to consume.

Signs You Need to Throw Food Out

There are also physical signs that you should look out for. If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to toss it.

Mold

Mold is an obvious sign that food has gone bad, but nevertheless be on the lookout for it.

Bad odor

Another more obvious sign, if food smells differently than it’s supposed to, it is time to throw it out.

Ice crystals

Ice crystals on frozen foods is a sign that the food has thawed and refroze numerous times, making it more susceptible to foodborne pathogens.

Discoloration

Whether it’s meat that is very dark or green, or yellowing vegetables, an off color could mean that it has gone bad.

Slimy film

Food that has suddenly become slimy is probably no good anymore.

 

Learn more food safety tips by taking our food handlers course.

Food Manager Certification Practice Exams

You’ve taken your food protection manager certification course, but now how do you prepare for the certification exam?

Taking a practice test is one of the most effective ways to prepare for your food manager certification exam. Studies have shown that students who have taken a practice test are able to recall information 22% more than those who had just studied.

Putting aside time to complete a practice test will show you what you know and what you need to study more of, as well as give you an idea of what the actual food protection manager exam will be like to help you feel more confident going into the exam.

Benefits of Taking a Food Protection Manager Practice Exam

Test Your Knowledge

When studying for your food manager exam, a practice test is a good way to see what you know. They can help you determine what information you already know and see if there any areas you need to study more before taking the actual exam.

Get Familiar with Types of Questions

Practice tests will include similar types of questions to the actual manager exam. From the practice exam, you can gauge the difficulty of the exam, as well as learn what topics come up.

Ease Anxiety

By taking a food manager practice test, you will feel more at ease knowing what to expect when you take the actual food protection manager exam.

Where to Find Practice Exams

Always Food Safe offers a free, complimentary food manager certification practice exam with their food protection manager course. It’s based off questions on the actual exam so that you can study and prepare yourself.

 

Sign up for our food protection manager certification program to get your complimentary practice exam.

Time and Temperature Control (TCS) Foods

Chef Checking Food Temperature

There are certain foods that create a better environment for bacteria to multiply. Time and temperature controlled (TCS) foods are foods that when not correctly stored, heated, cooled, or prepared run the risk of having high numbers of pathogenic bacteria.   

Knowing what TCS foods are and how to properly control their temperature will help ensure that your customers do not get a foodborne illness, making it an integral part of food safety training.

List of TCS Foods

The following foods need strict time and temperature control when preparing, serving, and storing:

  •        Dairy products
  •        Seafood
  •        Meat
  •        Poultry
  •        Eggs
  •        Soy protein (i.e. tofu)
  •        Raw sprouts
  •        Cooked or cut fruits and vegetables
  •        Cooked rice, pasta, and potatoes
  •        Unmodified garlic oils

Foods that are dried, canned, vacuum packed, high in acidity, or high in salt or sugar are considered low-risk foods as they don’t have good conditions for bacteria to grow in.

Temperature Danger Zone

The temperature danger zone is between 40°F - 140°F and is the temperature range in which foodborne bacteria can thrive. For TCS foods, it is important to minimize time in the temperature danger zone in order to prevent bacteria from multiplying.

TCS Foods Temperature Controls

It is especially important to keep TCS foods out of the temperature danger zone in order to avoid spreading foodborne illnesses.

Here is how to properly hold, cook, thaw, and reheat foods that will keep pathogenic bacteria from multiplying.

Cold Holding

Cold TCS foods must be held at 40°F or below.

Hot Holding

TCS hot foods should be maintained at 135°F or above.

Thawing

Thaw frozen foods in the refrigerator, under running water, or during the cooking process. NEVER thaw frozen foods at room temperature.

Cooking

Cook TCS foods to their minimum required temperature, as listed on our recommended safe minimum internal cooking temperatures guide.

Cooling

If the TCS food is at 135°F, it must be cooled to 70°F in 2 hours and 41°F within 6 hours. From room temperature, TCS foods must be cooled to 41°F within 4 hours.

Remember to keep containers with hot food uncovered while cooling to prevent condensation, then cover once it is cooled.

Reheating

When reheating, TCS foods must reach a minimum internal temperature of 165°F for at least 15 seconds within 2 hours.

8 Most Common Food Allergies

There are many different foods that can cause an allergic reaction, but 8 foods in particular are responsible for 90% of allergenic reactions and are classified by law as “major food allergens.”

It is important to be aware of what these 8 food allergens are and what dishes they appear in to avoid your customers suffering from a severe allergic reaction. We will be going over these 8 food allergens and where they appear and could be hidden, as well as the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

What is a Food Allergy

A food allergy is when your body’s immune system mistakes a certain food protein as a threat and tries to defend itself. Depending on the person, food allergies can range in severity, and even a small quantity can result in an allergic reaction.  

Symptoms of an Allergic Reaction

Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Usually symptoms include:

  •          Flushing and redness
  •          Hives
  •          Abdominal pain
  •          Nausea and vomiting
  •          Dizziness and fainting
  •          Difficulty swallowing or breathing

Severe cases can result in anaphylactic shock, where there is intense swelling of the throat and difficulty breathing and they may become unconscious. This can be fatal.

That is why it is crucial to understand food allergies and be aware of what the most common food allergens are and how to spot them.

Peanuts

Peanut allergies are the most common allergy and lasts a lifetime. Even a trace of peanuts can cause a severe allergic reaction.

It is important to check the label for peanuts since they may appear in the places you’d least expect them, such as pesto, baked goods, ethnic food, and vegetarian food. There are also other names for peanuts that may appear on the label, including the following:

  •          Ground nuts
  •          Beer nuts
  •          Monkey nuts
  •          Arachis oil
  •          Kernels
  •          Mandelonas

Note that many places that make tree nut products will use the same equipment with peanuts. Therefore, people with peanut allergies may choose to avoid tree nuts as well in order to avoid cross-contamination.

Tree nuts

Tree nuts allergies tend to be lifelong. They grow above ground on trees and include almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, and pistachios.

Tree nuts may be found in ethnic and vegetarian dishes, desserts, flavored coffees, alcoholic beverages, and oils or sauces.

Peanuts are not tree nuts, but people with tree nut allergies may also react to peanuts.

Milk

Milk allergies are one of the most common allergies in children, but most grow out of it, so it’s less common in adults. If a child is allergic to cow’s milk, they most likely are also allergic to other animal milks.

Alternative names for milk that may appear on an ingredients label include:

  •          Casein (hydrolysate)
  •          Caseinates
  •          Whey
  •          Lactoalbumin (phosphate)
  •          Lactose
  •          Lactulose
  •          Lactoferrin
  •          Lacto Globulin

Watch out for products where milk could be hiding, such as baked goods, salad dressings, peanut butter, mashed potatoes, and processed meat and fish products.

Eggs

Egg allergies are caused by three proteins found in eggs. Similar to milk allergies, egg allergies are a common allergy for children, but not as common in adults.

There are many other names for eggs that may appear on an ingredients label. These include:

  •          Albumen
  •          Conalbumin
  •          Globulin
  •          Livetin
  •          Lysozyme
  •          Ovalbumin
  •          Ovomucin
  •          Ovotransferrin
  •          Silico-albuminate
  •          Vitellin

Some products that may contain eggs are mayonnaise, pasta, baked goods, sweets/confectionary (e.g. marshmallows), specialty coffee drinks, and glazes.

Fish

Finned fish are another lifelong allergy. People who are allergic to one type of fish may be allergic to others as well, so they tend to avoid fish all together. Finned fish include base, cod, eel, salmon, tuna, trout, and many more.

Be wary of fish oil used and fish sauces used in cooking, since this will also trigger an allergic reaction.

Shellfish

Food allergies to crustaceans & mollusks are very common. Shellfish, along with peanuts and tree nuts, are the most common causes of anaphylactic reactions.

Shellfish allergies are not related to fish allergies. So, if someone is allergic to shellfish, that does not mean that they also have a fish allergy.

Like with fish, shellfish can be hiding in dressings, sauces, and broth, so read the ingredient lists closely.

Wheat

Wheat is the most commonly used grain in the United States. Most children outgrow their wheat allergy by the age of 3, but there are still some adults who are allergic to wheat.

There are many other grains that people with wheat allergies can consume. Substitutes include rice, rice flour, potato flour, buckwheat, and quinoa.

Soy

Soybeans are part of the legume family and in the United States are commonly used to boost protein in processed foods. Soybean allergies are very common in children, but most children will outgrow soy allergies by the age of 10.

Soy appears in sauces, cooking oil, protein substitutes, broths, and cereals.

 

Get more information on the 8 most common food allergens as well as how to spot and treat an allergic reaction by taking an allergy awareness course.

The Big 6 Foodborne Illnesses

The CDC reports that researchers have identified over 250 foodborne diseases. It is impossible to know about all of these sicknesses, but you should know about the 6 most common foodborne illnesses, known as the “Big 6”—Salmonella, Salmonella typhi (Typhoid), Shigella, E. coli, Norovirus, and Hepatitis A. Without proper food safety policies and procedures, foodborne pathogens can easily make their way into the food you are serving and infect your customers.

You can get more in-depth information about each of these foodborne pathogens in our pdf guide. But here are the basics of what you need to know in order to prevent your customers and staff.

 

Salmonella

Carried naturally by farm animals, it affects raw food from animal origins such as meats, eggs, and milk. It also affects vegetables that have come into contact with animal feces. It can survive freezer temperatures, but can be killed off at temperatures above 131°F.

Symptoms

  •          Fever
  •          Abdominal pain
  •          Diarrhea
  •          Vomiting

Prevention

  •          Cook all meat, poultry, and eggs to the minimum internal temperatures
  •          Use correct thawing techniques
  •          Wash raw fruits and vegetables
  •          Store TCS foods separately from ready-to-eat foods
  •          Sanitize all surfaces to prevent cross-contamination

 

Salmonella typhi (Typhoid)

Typhoid is the most severe foodborne illness and is a common killer where there is poor sanitation. It affects water and food contaminated by sewage. It cannot survive being cooked or boiled but can survive refrigerator or freezer temperatures.

With treatment, the mortality rate is 1-2%, but without treatment, death occurs every 1 in 3 instances.

Symptoms

  •          Fever and high temperature
  •          Abdominal pain
  •          Diarrhea
  •          Vomiting
  •          Mental confusion
  •          Pink spots on skin

Prevention

  •          Ensuring water is safe with no risk of contamination
  •          Effective sewage disposal
  •          High standards of personal hygiene
  •          Cook food to minimum internal temperature
  •          Effective cleaning and sanitation procedures to prevent cross-contamination
  •          Strict hand washing policies

 

Shigella

Shigella occurs when food workers who are carriers of the bacteria fail to wash their hands after using the restroom. It can also be spread through flies touching the food.

Symptoms

  •          Abdominal pain
  •          Diarrhea
  •          Bloody Stool
  •          Fever

Prevention

  •          Strict handwashing policy
  •          Rapidly cool foods to 41°F or below
  •          Cook food to minimum internal temperature
  •          Eliminate flies from your establishment

 

E. coli

Most strains of E. coli are harmless, but some can cause food poisoning. It can infect humans and cattle and it only takes a small number of these bacteria to make someone sick. It is not dangerous to most healthy people, however, can be fatal for groups such as children, elderly, and those with compromised immune systems.

E. Coli can survive and multiply in refrigerators running as low as 36°F and can survive on stainless steel surfaces for 60 days if not sanitized properly. Cooking above 122°F starts to slow down the growth.

Symptoms

  •          Diarrhea
  •          Vomiting
  •          Fever
  •          Abdominal pain

Prevention

  •          Use approved suppliers
  •          Separate storage and work areas for raw and high-risk foods
  •          Cooking food to its minimum internal temperature
  •          Temperature control of chilled ready-to-eat foods
  •          Good personal hygiene
  •          Effective cleaning and sanitation practices

 

Norovirus

Norovirus is the most common type of viral gastroenteritis in the US, with its short-lived, aggressive diarrhea and projectile vomiting. It is also very contagious.

Norovirus can come from ready-to-eat foods, contaminated water, and raw shellfish from contaminated water. Infected food handlers can spread the virus while they are preparing food. It is commonly spread person-to-person by fecal-oral, oral-oral, and by poor personal hygiene, poor handwashing and bare hand contact.

Symptoms

  •          Nausea
  •          Projectile vomiting
  •          Diarrhea
  •          Abdominal pain
  •          Moderate fever-like symptoms

Prevention

  •          Strict hand washing policies
  •          Strict personal hygiene standards
  •          Avoid bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods
  •          Effective cleaning and sanitation

 

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a viral liver infection that is widespread around the world, especially in areas with poor sanitation. It is commonly spread person-to-person by the fecal-oral route, poor handwashing and bare hand contact. Infected people are highly contagious but may not show signs for weeks. Cooking will NOT destroy this virus.

Symptoms

  •          Fever
  •          Nausea
  •          Abdominal Pain
  •          Jaundice

Prevention

  •          Exclude employees who have been diagnosed with Hepatitis A
  •          Strict handwashing policies
  •          Strict personal hygiene standards
  •          Avoid bare hand contact with ready-to-eat foods
  •          Effective cleaning and sanitation

 

Prevent Foodborne Illness

It is important that your staff is food safety trained so are aware of the ways pathogens can spread through food and how to prevent foodborne illnesses.

 

Always Food Safe offers Food Handlers training to teach you and your staff more about the Big 6 foodborne illnesses and how to prevent the spread of pathogens in your establishment.