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Virginia Law Change Requires Person in Charge to be a Certified Food Protection Manager

The state of Virginia has updated their Food Regulations to include changes to the FDA’s 2017 Food Code.

One important change to note comes from section 12VAC5-421-55, where it now states that the Person in Charge (PIC) must be a Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM).

But what does this mean for you?

In Virginia, a PIC is required to be on the premises during all hours of operation. This change means that every PIC should have their Food Protection Manager Certification, so at least one person must be a CFPM during all hours of operation.

This change will be enforced starting June 24, 2023.

Until this date, at least one PIC on staff must be a CFPM.

Although this new requirement will not be enforced for over a year, it might be useful to get a head start on getting staff their Food Protection Manager Certification.

Looking for Certified Food Protection Manager training to fulfill this new requirement? Always Food Safe’s Food Manager training will fill this requirement. Learn more about our CFPM training.

Safely Running a Buffet

Food safety is vital to operating any restaurant, and it is especially important when it comes to buffets.

Buffets and self-service areas can be a food safety challenge, with many things that could go wrong—from temperature abuse to cross-contamination.

Here are the most important things to remember when operating a self-service food area.

Keep food out of the temperature danger zone

One of the challenges of buffets is keeping food out of the temperature danger zone. As a food handler or manager, it is your job to ensure that hot food is held at a minimum of 135°F, and that cold food is kept at a temperature no higher than 41°F.

Have only one serving utensil per food item

There are two different reasons to use separate utensils. The first is to prevent cross-contamination between foods, especially raw and ready-to-eat foods. Having the same utensils can cause harmful pathogens to transfer between foods.

The other reason is to prevent allergen cross-contact. When a serving utensil is used for different foods, the proteins from an allergen can transfer between them. To prevent an allergic reaction from happening in your restaurant, be sure each food has their own serving utensil.

Monitor self-service areas

Any area where guests are plating their own food need to be monitored to ensure that there are no food safety issues.

Check the temperatures

To prevent temperature abuse, you should be checking the temperatures of the food consistently. If any food has been sitting in the temperature danger zone for too long, you should discard and replace it.

Switch out food and utensils if necessary

You can’t control what your guests will do, which is why you should keep an eye on the self-service area.

If you see someone using the same utensil for multiple different foods, switch out those foods with fresh ones and discard the contaminated ones. Also supply a new, clean and sanitized utensil for each food.

Another thing to watch out for is guests using their hands to pick up food. If this happens, discard any food they touched and replace it to prevent cross-contamination.

 

Buffets are not the only area of food safety you should worry about. To learn more about safely operating a foodservice business, check out our Food Handler, Allergen Awareness, and Food Protection Manager courses.

FDA Releases Plan to Improve Foodborne Outbreak Response

The FDA, as part of their new era of smarter food safety, has released their Foodborne Outbreak Response Improvement Plan (FORIP). They seek to enhance the speed, effectiveness, coordination, and communication of outbreak investigations.

In the United States, tracking foodborne illness outbreaks involves many different states and jurisdictions. With the FORIP, the FDA hopes to make this process even more efficient to prevent the outbreak from spreading further, and to prevent similar outbreaks from happening in the future.

FORIP focuses on four different areas:

  •          Tech-enabled product traceback—Digitizing the traceback process
  •          Root cause investigations—Conducting timely root cause investigations and expediting process of getting any necessary public health information out there to prevent the situation from happening again
  •          Analysis and dissemination of outbreak data—Strengthening analysis of outbreak data and share this with other regulatory partners
  •          Operational improvements—Improving operations for root cause investigations, product tracing, and distribution of outbreak data

With these improvements, the FDA will be better equipped to respond to foodborne outbreaks, helping to prevent future foodborne illness outbreaks in the United States

For more information and specifics on this new plan, read about it  on the FDA’s Website.

Benefits of Implementing Continuous Training at Your Restaurant

We all know by now how important food safety training is to a successful restaurant, but good training goes beyond onboarding.

You may think that continuous training is a waste of time, but in reality, there are a number of benefits, including increasing job retention, keeping up with new regulations, and keeping employees better informed so that food safety mistakes are not made.

Here are just some of the many benefits of implementing continuous training at your restaurant.

Keeps Up With New Regulations

Food safety is constantly changing and evolving, so it is important to stay up to date on the latest food safety rules and regulations.

Make it a point to keep up with the current food code. When there are changes, have a way to communicate these changes to employees.

Keeps Knowledge Fresh

Employees will have forgotten 90% of their training in 6 months. If employees aren’t using the information on a regular basis, they are at risk of forgetting it.

Continuous training reminds employees of the information they may have forgotten and keeps knowledge fresh.

That’s why food safety training has to be repeated every few years. In the meantime, you can help employees retain their food safety knowledge with training refreshers, such as these short recap videos.

Increases Employee Satisfaction and Job Retention

The restaurant industry turnover rates have been historically high.

Forbes’ research found that 28% of all employees who quit within the first 90-120 days of employment do so due to a lack of training and support. That’s because proper training can make employees feel valued and see potential within their job.

Onboarding training is important to keeping new hires on, and implementing continuous training helps increase employee satisfaction overtime, leading to lower turnover rates.

Creates a Food Safety Culture

At Always Food Safe, we talk about creating a culture of food safety. Implementing continuous training helps achieve this by making food safety the norm and bringing it to the forefront of people’s attention.

Making food safety a part of company culture will ensure that proper food safety procedures are being followed, reducing the risk of foodborne illnesses arising and in turn keeping everything running smoothly.

 

Need to get your employees trained? Check out our Food Protection Manager, Food Handler, and Allergen Awareness training programs.

Always Food Safe donates training to Food Recovery Network volunteers

Always Food Safe has partnered with the Food Recovery Network to give food handler training to their volunteers.

The Food Recovery Network is a student-led movement that donates surplus food from campuses to those in need. Started by four college students back in 2012, their program is now on 172 campuses and has recovered 4.1 million meals.

Food Handler training will teach volunteers about food safety topics such as temperature control, avoiding cross-contamination, proper storage techniques, and personal hygiene. This will help volunteers package and transport food safely, and help their communities.

Interested in contributing the Food Recovery Network? Visit their website to see how you can help.

Top 10 Food Safety Myths

Have you fallen for any of these common food safety myths?

Leftovers are safe to eat unless they smell bad

Smell is NOT an accurate way to determine whether your leftovers have gone bad. Not all bad bacteria create a fowl smell. The FDA food code cites that prepared foods can only be stored for 7 days max.

For more information on how to tell whether your food has gone bad, read our tips on when to throw food out.

Hamburgers are done cooking when the middle is brown

The middle of your hamburger being brown does not mean that your food is thoroughly cooked. The only way to be certain is with a thermometer. Hamburgers should be cooked to 155°F for 17 seconds.

Here is a breakdown of all recommended internal cooking temperatures.

If you are peeling fruits or vegetables, you don’t need to wash them

If you are peeling vegetables or cutting open a melon, you still need to wash it. As you cut or peel, the bacteria from the outside gets on the knife or peeler and carries the pathogens to the edible portion, contaminating it. For that reason, always remember to wash ALL fruits and veggies!

Rinse meat, poultry, or seafood to get rid of bacteria

Typically, washing food removes bacteria. But, rinsing your meat causes bacteria to spread to surfaces and utensils through the juices. Do not wash meat, poultry, or seafood to prevent cross-contamination.

Microwaves kill off bacteria, so the food is safe

In a microwave, the heat is what kills the bacteria, therefore it is not guaranteed that if you microwave food it is safe to eat. If not properly cooked, harmful bacteria can still be present. Even if microwaving, you must cook the food to its minimum safe internal cooking temperature.

Freezing food kills bacteria

You may be under the impression that freezing food kills off bacteria, but that is not the case. Freezing food only slows the growth of pathogenic bacteria. So while freezing food prevents harmful bacteria from multiplying, it does not get rid of what is already present. When it comes to preparing frozen foods, still follow safe food handling procedures.

The 5-second rule

The popular 5-second rule—if food falls on the ground and you pick it up in less than 5 seconds, it’s still good to eat. Sorry, but pathogens can travel to your food and contaminate it faster than that. If you drop food on the ground, either wash it again or throw it out.

Wait for food to cool completely before placing it in the fridge

You don’t actually have to wait for food to cool before putting it in the fridge. In fact, leaving food out at room temperature will leave it in the temperature danger zone for too long, leaving it susceptible to bacteria growth.

We recommend cooling food within 30 minutes. Best practice is to divide food into shallow trays and in smaller portions.

You can defrost food on the kitchen counter

Similar to cooling hot food on the kitchen counter, defrosting food at room temperature leaves it in the temperature danger zone for too long. Instead, you can thaw it in the refrigerator, run under hot water (in the package; remember what we said about rinsing raw meat), or let the meat thaw while cooking.

Cross-contamination doesn’t happen in refrigerators

This myth stems from the false assumption that refrigerators are too cold for bacteria. Bacteria can survive these temperatures, and some can even grow.

To prevent cross-contamination in the refrigerator, clean your refrigerator regularly and follow proper storage practices, such as storing meat on the bottom shelf.

September is Food Safety Education Month!

This month, take time to learn more about food safety and spread awareness of the dangers of foodborne illnesses.

Every year, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans acquire a foodborne illness. That is about 48 million people! Of those people, around 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 lose their life—all because of contaminated food.

That’s why food safety education is important this month, and every month after!

September serves as a reminder to review and educate yourself on food safety. To help, all month long, we will be taking to our social media to share information on preventing foodborne illnesses. Take a look and share any posts you think may be helpful to others from our Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Another helpful resource is our blog. Here are some links to learn more about food safety:

 

To learn even more about food safety, take a look at our Food Protection Manager, Food Handler, and Allergen Awareness training.

Avoiding Hidden Allergens

Living with a food allergy is already hard enough, but it gets even harder considering allergens can be hiding in other ingredients or foods.

As those working in the food industry, it is our responsibility to protect those suffering with a food allergy, and one concept vital to that is recognizing hidden allergens.

Here, we will be going over the importance of checking the label and knowing what goes into dishes, as well as go over specific foods to watch out for.

Checking the Label

The most important thing to do when trying to avoid an allergen is to check the label carefully. The USDA requires that the 8 major food allergens be listed in plain English on the label.

Labels will also mention if there could be traces of a certain allergen or if it was produced at the same facility as one.

Allergens can also go by different names, making it even harder for those suffering with food allergies. It is important to be familiar with some of the common names for major food allergens.

Get Familiar with Your Menu

Know what goes into the dishes on your menu, so that if a customer asks, you can give them an educated answer. At least be aware if one of the 8 main allergens is present.

If you are unsure, ask someone else, even if you don’t think that allergen is present. It is better to be safe than sorry. Remember, it is your responsibility to keep the people you are serving safe.

Common Sources of Hidden Allergens

Be sure to pay extra attention to the following foods, as they commonly contain hidden allergens.

Peanuts

Peanut allergies are a severe allergy for many people. Lots of Asian cuisines will include peanuts in sauces. Peanuts can also be hiding in pastries and chocolates.

Other Names for Peanuts

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

Tree Nuts

There are a variety of different tree nuts to watch out for, such as walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, chestnuts, pistachios, and cashews, just to name a few.

Peanuts are a legume, so those with a tree nut allergy are typically not allergic to peanuts. However, foods with peanuts could contain traces of tree nuts, so be aware of that.

Nuts can be hidden in Indian curry pastes, Thai sauces, and pesto. Cooking oils may also contain tree nuts. Watch out for nut butters as well.

Eggs

Eggs can be found in many different pastries, but also be aware that pastry glazes may also contain eggs.

Other Names for Eggs

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

Wheat

Wheat is more obviously in bread, pastries, pizza bases, and pasta, but it can also be present in stock cubes and Worcestershire sauce.

When considering wheat allergies, it is important to distinguish the difference between a wheat allergy and gluten sensitivity. Wheat allergies is a reaction to wheat protein, and gluten is a specific protein in wheat, barley, and rye.

Fish

Fish frequently hide in sauces, such as Worcestershire sauce and Caesar salad dressing. Thai and other Asian cuisines will frequently include fish sauce in their dishes. Fish can also appear in fried rice.

Shellfish

Like fish, shellfish can be hidden in fried rice and sauces.

A shellfish allergy is different than a fish allergy, but fish from a seafood restaurant may contain traces of shellfish due to cross-contact, and vice versa. However, people with fish or shellfish allergies will likely avoid seafood altogether.

Soy

Soy can appear in many different cooking oils. There can also be dishes with soy sauce hidden in it, so make sure you are familiar with what is going into any given dish.

Many vegetarian and vegan protein substitutes contain soy. Textured vegetable protein (TVP) contains soy, so those with a soy allergy should avoid this.

Other Names for Soy

  •          Miso
  •          Tofu
  •          Tempeh
  •          Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  •          Shoyu
  •          Soya
  •          Natto
  •          Tamari

Milk

Butter or cream can be hidden in many different foods. Watch out for sauces, dips, baked goods, battered or fried foods, soups, and potato dishes

Other Names for Milk

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

 

To go more in depth on hidden allergens and how to prevent allergic reactions, take a look at our Allergy Awareness training.

What is a Foodborne Illness and Other Questions Answered

As a Food Handler or Manager, you constantly hear about the importance of following the correct food safety procedures to prevent foodborne illnesses. But at some point, you may have wondered why it is so important to prevent foodborne illnesses.

Here are the basics to understanding the impact of foodborne illnesses and why we put such an emphasis on food safety.

What is a foodborne illness?

According to the World Health Organization, foodborne illnesses are diseases caused by eating food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemicals.

There are over 200 identified foodborne diseases, but the most common are known as the Big 6—Salmonella, Typhoid, E. coli, Norovirus, and Hepatitis A.

How do contaminants get into food and cause a foodborne illness?

Food can be contaminated at any stage of production, delivery, or consumption.

Foodborne illnesses can be prevented by implementing safe food handling practices, which is why food safety training is so important for everyone working in the food industry.

Who is impacted by foodborne illnesses?

The CDC estimates that 48 million people contract a foodborne illness each year in the United States, with 128,000 hospitalized and 3,000 deaths.

Anyone can get a foodborne illness, but the most at-risk groups include:

  •          The elderly
  •          Young children
  •          Immunocompromised or those with preexisting conditions
  •          Pregnant women

What are the symptoms of foodborne illnesses?

Symptoms vary between different foodborne illnesses, but here are the most common symptoms:

  •          Upset stomach or stomach cramps
  •          Nausea and vomiting
  •          Diarrhea
  •          Fever

When should I see a doctor?

Most foodborne illnesses just take time. However, you should see a doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  •          Bloody diarrhea
  •          Fever over 102°F
  •          Frequent vomiting
  •          Signs of dehydration
  •          Diarrhea lasting for more than 3 days

 

Remember, prevention is best when it comes to tackling foodborne illnesses. Learn more about preventing foodborne illnesses by taking our Food Handler and Food Protection Manager training.

What to Do If Someone Has an Allergic Reaction in Your Restaurant

Each year, around 200,000 people in the United States need emergency medical care after an allergic reaction to food. Hopefully, this doesn’t happen, but an allergic reaction could happen in your restaurant.

Prevention is key, but knowing what to do if a severe allergic reaction does occur is also important for keeping everyone safe.

The following goes over symptoms of a severe allergic reaction and how to respond if one does occur.

Train Staff on Food Allergies

Prevention is better than cure, and proper allergen awareness training can prevent allergic reactions from happening in the first place. The more educated your staff is on topics such as common food allergens and allergen cross-contact, the more you can avoid a serious allergic reaction from happening in your restaurant.

Symptoms of a Severe Allergic Reaction

Anaphylaxis is a severe reaction to an allergen and can be life threatening if not treated properly. Symptoms include:

  •          Low blood pressure
  •          Hives
  •          Swelling of face, lips, tongue, or throat
  •          Dizziness or fainting
  •          Nausea or vomiting
  •          Weak and rapid pulse
  •          Constricted airways causing wheezing and problems breathing

Call 911

The first thing you should do if someone is experiencing any signs of anaphylaxis is call 911 immediately. If they have a history of anaphylaxis, even if they are not experiencing symptoms, they should make a trip to the emergency room. Do this before anything else.

If they are dining alone, it might be a good idea to try to get in touch with an emergency contact, if possible.

Use an Epinephrine Autoinjector

People with a severe allergy should carry at least one epinephrine autoinjector at all times. Administer at the first signs of anaphylaxis by injecting the shot into their outer thigh.

The epinephrine cannot harm them if it is unnecessarily administered, so if you are unsure of whether it is needed, it is better to just go ahead and inject it. Don’t wait for symptoms to worsen.

What to do after

Even if the symptoms are mild or have stopped, they should go to the nearest hospital in case the symptoms return or worsen.

 

Get your staff educated about food allergies by having them take our Allergen Awareness course.