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Preventing Allergen Cross-Contact

32 million Americans have a food allergy, with 200,000 of those people requiring emergency medical care for an allergic reaction each year.

That’s why it is so important to ensure an allergen does not end up in a dish you are serving. One way allergens can end up in food is through cross-contact—when an allergen’s proteins come into contact with another food and mix. Even the smallest traces of an allergen could cause an allergic reaction.

Unlike pathogenic bacteria, cooking does not get rid of the allergen. Once an allergen comes into contact with the dish, the allergen’s proteins are in the dish. And if served to someone with that particular allergy, it could cause and allergic reaction. That is why knowing the proper procedures for handling allergens and preventing cross-contact is so crucial.

The following tips will help you prevent cross-contact and protect your customers.

 

Store Allergens Separately

Use a separate storage area for common food allergens. That way if anything spills or leaks, it does not contaminate other food and cause an allergic reaction somewhere down the road.

 

Clean and Sanitize Surfaces and Equipment

Knives, cutting boards, counters, utensils, and any equipment or surfaces that comes into contact with food need to be cleaned and sanitized before preparing an allergen-free meal. Allergen proteins can linger if not properly sanitized between each use.

 

Throw Out Dishes That Come into Contact with Allergens

Be cautious when preparing an allergen-free meal so an allergen does not touch it.

If an allergen comes into contact when preparing an allergen-free meal, do not try to pick it out and do not serve the dish. Once the allergen is in the dish, its proteins are present and serving it would put an allergy sufferer at risk of an allergic reaction. Remember, allergens cannot be cooked off, and even the smallest trace of an allergen could cause an allergic reaction. Discard the dish, then start over.

 

To learn more about preventing allergen cross-contact, check out our allergen awareness course.

Caring for Seniors Means Caring for Food: Advice on Food Safety for Caregivers

Preparing nutritious, delicious food for the seniors in your charge doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Even for those with allergies or specific dietary restrictions, follow a few simple steps to make sure the food you’re preparing is both safe and healthy:

 

1. Avoid allergens: What to look for

Symptoms of food allergies can range depending on the severity, but you could look for rashes around the mouth, swelling of the lips and tongue, or intestinal issues. More severe reactions can include anaphylactic shock, which is life-threatening and will need medical intervention.

 

Some of the most common food allergies include dairy, eggs, peanuts, shellfish, and soy, among others. To ensure you are providing the safest experience for your seniors, first, ask them if they have any known allergies. Even if they respond in the negative, it’s best to proceed with caution. Some allergies have been known to manifest in adulthood, perhaps as the result of a delayed sensitization period or a reaction with some other allergen, like pollen.

 

For seniors with food allergies, it’s important to take extra care in food preparation and storage. Instead of taking a chance on any of these serious side effects, follow a few quick tips. For one, always wash your hands between handling different kinds of foods. In addition, always cook allergen-free meals first (so potential allergens won’t be on your cooking surface), and use multiple cutting boards if possible. You should also strive to avoid cross-contamination and store ingredients properly — store allergenic ingredients in the same place in the kitchen, for example.

 

2. Try some healthy (allergen-free!) snack ideas

So what do you cook to ensure your seniors are getting the nutrients they need while at the same time avoiding illness or adverse reactions? Healthy snacks with few or no allergens are a great choice. Try to avoid foods that are high in sugar — instead, go for whole grains and whole vegetables.

 

Some delicious examples of healthy, allergen-free snacks can be high-protein energy balls, roasted chickpeas, avocado, or popcorn. These provide protein, good fats, and healthy carbs — not to mention, popcorn, at least, is a pretty low-calorie food.

 

Even seniors with a serious sweet tooth can have that desire sated with sweet treats like fruit salad, trail mix, and home-made popsicles. Get creative with these nutritious snack ideas, while keeping in mind that your senior may have dietary restrictions, and it’s easy to keep them healthy.

 

3. Watch how you cook!

Allergens aren’t the only trouble. As we get older, our immune systems decline. In addition, the liver and kidneys may not effectively get rid of bacteria as we get older, and the gastrointestinal tract holds on to food for a longer period of time, leading to more bacteria.

 

All of this means that it’s doubly important to take stock of how you’re cooking the meals provided to seniors. Food poisoning from undercooked meat, for example, can be much more severe for older citizens, so take care to fully cook chicken, beef, turkey, or whichever meat you are preparing to the minimum recommended internal temperature.

 

While you’re cooking, as we mentioned previously, make sure to wash your hands often after handling ingredients and before mixing. You should also sanitize every surface thoroughly and, when you’re done, store cooked food at the proper temperature (41 degrees Fahrenheit).

 

Bonus: Get certified!

By following these simple tips, you can keep your senior charges happy and healthy. But here’s an extra tip: Become a certified food manager. This certification and requisite training courses will prepare you for a job in the restaurant industry or in senior care. Contact Always Food Safe to become a certified food manager today.

Hear from an Industry Expert on The Importance of Food Safety

Why is there such an emphasis on food safety training?

That’s because when in the restaurant industry, food safety should be your primary concern. One simple mistake could put your customers at risk of contracting a foodborne illness or having an allergic reaction.

Don’t just take our word for it. Hear from a food safety expert who works in the restaurant industry talk about his experiences with food safety and the impacts it can make on your business if ignored.

The Expert

Ralph Iglesias is the Senior Director of Food Safety, Training, and Brand Compliance at Sizzler.

He shared with us insights into what a food safety expert does, what the industry looks like, as well as how he keeps up with ever-changing food safety regulations and how he implements them at his company.

Food Contamination

Cross-contamination and allergen cross-contact are easy, but dangerous, mistakes to make. However, they are also easy to prevent.

Ralph shares stories from his experience with contaminated food, showing why it’s important to continuously improve and reevaluate your food safety procedures.

Holding Food

Ralph shares how Sizzler constantly monitor their holding food in their salad bar—from tracking the temperatures to preventing cross-contamination.

Get a Quick Refresher with These Short Food Safety Recap Videos

There’s a lot to learn about food safety—meaning there’s a lot you have to remember in order to run a safe food establishment.

But even if you don’t have a lot of extra time, there are still ways to quickly review different food safety topics.

The following are short video recaps—under a minute long—to quickly give you a knowledge refresh so you can get back to keeping your kitchen safe.

Cooking Temperatures

Cooking food to their minimum recommended internal temperature can help reduce pathogenic bacteria to a safe level, so remembering what these are is crucial.

Cold Storage

When storing food in a cooler or freezer, proper food storage will help keep food from going bad or passing along a foodborne illness to your customers.

Sanitizers and Detergents

Knowing the difference between sanitizers and detergents will help you properly clean your kitchen and kill of pathogenic bacteria that could be lurking on surfaces or equipment.

Personal Hygiene

Are you following all of the best personal hygiene practices?

Vehicles of Contamination

Stop the spread of pathogenic bacteria to prevent contaminating the food you’re serving.

 

For a complete look at proper food safety procedures, check out our food handlers training course.

How Video-Based Learning Can Help Your Business

Food safety training was traditionally done in a classroom setting, but COVID-19 has pushed many things online, including learning. How can we adapt to these changes?

Video-based food safety training allows food handlers and managers to train from wherever, whenever. There are many other reasons to consider video-based training in addition the ability to take a food safety course from the safety of your own home.

Read more to discover how video-based training can benefit you, your employees, and your business.

Greater Flexibility

Taking an in-person food safety course means that you will have to work on their schedule. Video-based learning allows you to complete the training in your own time and at your own pace. No need to travel to and from the classroom.

You also do not need to train staff yourself. They can just watch the videos to complete the training on their own.

More Engaging

There are many learning styles, but video-based learning has proven to keep learners’ attention and help them better retain the information.

75% of employees are more likely to watch a video than to read text. In addition to paying more attention to video-based training, learners who watch videos better retain the information over time, making video training more effective than reading a textbook.

Cost-Effective

The cost of classroom training can add up. Since video-based training is online and does not require a classroom or an individual instructor, it ends up saving you money in the long run.

 

Always Food Safe offers video-based training with food handler, food protection manager, and allergen awareness courses. See how switching to online, video-based training can help you and your business.

New Year’s Resolutions for a Restaurant Manager – 5 Easy, Simple Improvements

The beginning of a new year is a good time to reflect and make changes that will better your life. As you are setting your health and lifestyle resolutions for the new year, consider making a few resolutions about restaurant management.

Here are 4 ideas of New Year’s resolutions you can make to become an even better restaurant manager.

1. Switch to Video-Based Training

Everyone has different learning styles, but video-based learning has been proven to keep students more engaged and help to better retain the information.

Keep your staff engaged by implementing video-based food safety training to make sure they are retaining the most food safety knowledge that they can.

2. Implement Continuous Training

Help keep your staff educated about proper food safety procedures by implementing continuous training throughout the year. While food handlers cards only need to be renewed every one to three years depending on the state, it is good to equip your staff with up-to-date knowledge to ensure your kitchen is safe.

3. Better Organize Your Certifications

We all know that running a restaurant involves a LOT of paperwork, but it does not have to.

Get a management account that stores all certificates in one easy to use area, including information about what training each employee has taken, their pass rate, and a link to a PDF version of the certificate.

4. Keep Better Track with Schedules and Logs

Create a schedule and keep up with your cleaning and thermometer checks by using some of our  PDF downloads that you fill out to track when you’ve last cleaned or checked the temperatures of the refrigerators.

5. Offer Greater Flexibility with Certifications

Driving to a testing center to take the food protection manager certification exam can take time out of your staff’s already busy schedule. Offer them greater flexibility by giving them the option to take remotely proctored online exams so they can take the exam wherever and whenever, or have an internal proctor in your business so they can take their exam in-house.

Food Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

With the holiday season upon us, many people enjoy a holiday feast with family and friends to celebrate.

However, preparing and serving food always comes with the risk of spreading foodborne illnesses. Incorrect food handling could get you and your loved ones sick. To prevent this from happening, follow these food safety tips to ensure you have a happy and safe holiday season.

Cook Food to Its Minimum Internal Temperature

Whether it’s turkey, ham, or another holiday delicacy you’re cooking, be sure it reaches its recommended minimum internal cooking temperature to get pathogenic bacteria down to a safe level. Use a food thermometer to check before taking it out of the oven.

Keep Food Out of The Temperature Danger Zone.

When serving food, it is important to make sure that time and temperature control (TCS) foods do not stay in the temperature danger zone (between 40°F - 140°F) for longer than 2 hours. At this temperature, pathogenic bacteria can multiply at an exponential rate.

Don’t Eat Raw Cookie Dough

Cookies are a popular treat during the holiday season, but don’t be tempted to eat the cookie dough. The raw eggs and flour can harbor a number of harmful bacteria, leading to food poisoning.  

Wash Your Hands

This one seems simple, but it’s easy to forget. Remember to wash your hands before and after handling food.

Why You Should Consider Food Delivery Driver Training

COVID-19 has pushed restaurants to offer more takeout and delivery options. These can present new safety challenges—from how to safely handle the food to social distancing while delivering food to customers.

You train food handlers and managers, so why not train your delivery drivers?

Delivery driver training employee health, when not to come into work, handwashing and personal hygiene, safe food handling procedures, cleaning and sanitizing, and how to social distance while making deliveries. As safety is a primary concern right now, this training is beneficial for your business because it keeps your staff an customers safe.

Here are just a few of the reasons you should consider delivery driver training for your business:

Prevent Foodborne Illnesses

Food delivery creates opportunity for food safety issues such as temperature abuse and cross-contamination. Learning more about personal hygiene, such as proper handwashing and glove usage, ss well as proper cleaning and sanitizing, will help you prevent foodborne illnesses.

Follow COVID-19 Safety Measures

COVID-19 continues to be a major concern for people. Delivery driver training includes details on how to properly social distance while delivering food to keep your customers—and your employees—protected and at ease.

Better Customer Experience

Training your delivery drivers on best practices will ensure that your customers have a better overall experience with their food delivery. The delivery will go more smoothly if you equip your staff with the knowledge of how to properly deliver food.

 

Always Food Safe offers FREE delivery driver training so you are prepared and know how to keep your customers safe.

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.