Blog posts of '2021' 'February'

How Proctors Are Getting People Their Food Protection Manager Certificates During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many things to become virtual—including test taking. Remotely proctored food protection manager exams have now become extremely popular.

However, even with the pandemic still ongoing, in-person proctors have still found ways to safely get people their food manager certifications.

COVID-19 precautions are set in place, such as limited class sizes, spacing out students, wearing masks, and temperature checks.

The pandemic has made safety training, including food safety training, more relevant and important than ever. It has brought to light the importance of proper training in order to keep customers and workers safe.

Read more about how Always Food Safe proctor Linda Petterson is getting students their food protection manager certification during the pandemic.

Whether you want to take the food protection manager exam in-person or online, Always Food Safe will get you certified. Learn more about our Food Protection Manager training & certification.

Valentine's Day Food Safety: How to Avoid A Valentine's Day Disaster

Valentine’s Day is a holiday where many people chose to dine out. When it comes to dining out, there is always a risk of foodborne illness.

Foodborne illness is an effective way to ruin an otherwise perfect Valentine’s day evening.

Whether you are dining in or dining out, we are here to help you have a good Valentine’s Day—one that does not include contracting a foodborne illness.

Follow these tips to safely dine out or dine in this Valentine’s Day.

Dining Out

Properly vet the restaurant

Before making a reservation, be sure to properly vet the restaurant to make sure they are always food safe. Look at the reviews, which can include health inspection scores, as well as if they have some sort of proof that their staff is food safety trained.

And if the restaurant doesn’t look clean or you see any red flags, you can always leave and find somewhere else.

Skip the raw oysters

Raw oysters are a classic Valentine’s Day dish, but beware. Raw oysters could be contaminated with foodborne pathogens, leading to an unpleasant night for both of you. Consider skipping the raw oysters this Valentine’s Day.

Be sure food is fully cooked

When you food is served, make sure that it is hot and everything is thoroughly cooked through so that pathogenic bacteria are reduced to a safe level.

Get your leftovers in the fridge fast

Leaving food out for too long allows pathogenic bacteria to multiply to dangerous levels. It is recommended that you get your leftovers in the fridge within 2 hours of it being served. If you get a doggie bag, get it in the fridge as soon as you get home.

Dining In

Meal kits

This year, many restaurants are offering take home Valentine’s Day boxes, either already made or a meal kit for you to prepare yourself.

If the food is already made and ready to go, make sure any hot food is still hot when it is picked up or delivered, then consume as soon as possible to prevent the food from cooling down and entering the temperature danger zone, between 40°F - 140°F, where pathogenic bacteria can multiply to dangerous levels.

If you are responsible for preparing the meal, be sure to follow safe food handling practices when cooking it up.

Be sure meat is thoroughly cooked

Making steaks this Valentine’s Day? When cooking meat, make sure that it is cooked to its minimum recommended internal temperature, using a thermometer to check.

Don’t leave your meal sitting out

Once you are both done eating, don’t just leave the food sit out. Get the leftovers in the fridge as soon as you can, at least within 2 hours of when it was served.

How to Safely Serve Food at a Socially Distanced Outdoor Gathering

2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the amount of contact we have with those we care about.  

The safest way to socialize is virtually, but a low-risk way to see people is at a small, socially distanced outdoor gathering.

There is no evidence that COVID-19 is spread through food, but congregating around food or sharing utensils poses a risk of passing along COVID. In order to safely serve food at a socially distance outdoor gathering, you need to avoid creating situations where people congregate or have to share a utensil in addition to your typical safe food handling practices.

If you are planning on hosting a socially distanced outdoor gathering, first of all, listen to your state and local COVID-19 regulations, and follow CDC guidelines and recommendations. Additionally, if you or anyone in your household is feeling ill or had an exposure to someone with COVID, cancel the event, and encourage your guests not to attend if they have symptoms or a possible exposure.

But if state and local regulations allow it, cases in your area are low, and no one from your household is sick or had a possible exposure, here are some tips for serving food in a way that encourages social distancing, as well as food safety tips to prevent spreading another sickness—foodborne illnesses.

CDC Resources

The best source for preventing the spread of COVID-19 is the CDC. Here are some resources from the CDC that can help your outdoor gathering be as safe as possible.

When You’re Not Eating, Wear A Mask

The most important thing to remember is that even though you’re outside, you should still be wearing your mask and staying 6 feet apart. You can still spread the virus while you are outdoors. Encourage your guests only to take their mask off while they are eating and to keep a 6 foot distance between each other.

Set Up Tables and Chairs to Allow Social Distancing

Don’t cluster tables and chairs together, forcing your guests to get close to one another. Set them up 6 feet apart and have one household sit per table.

Have Guests Bring Their Own Food and Drink

Having your guests bring their own food and beverages to your outdoor gathering will reduce the amount of contact between you and your guests.

Limit Food Prep and Serving to One or Two People

If you do decide to serve your guests food, limit food prep and serving to one or two people, to make sure there are not multiple people trying to prepare food in a condensed area.

Have one person serve the food so that your guests are not all handling the serving utensils.

Serve Single Serving Food

Don’t serve any food that encourages congregating. This means skipping the chips and dip. Food that is easy to serve in individual portions is best.

Grilling hamburgers or hot dogs, a classic outdoor activity, is a great option, among many other foods. Grilling food also keeps you outside, instead of having a bunch of people come through your kitchen.

Serve Condiments in Individual Portions

To avoid double dipping or passing around a bottle of ketchup, try and offer condiments in individual portions. Get creative. Use tiny jars, ramekins, or any other small container.

Other Safe Food Handling Practices

Here are the most important things to remember as you are preparing food for your guests.

Wash your hands

Before preparing food, it is important to wash your hands—and not just because of COVID! It will get rid of other germs as well that can cause the spread of foodborne illnesses.

In addition, consider providing hand sanitizer so that people can sanitize their hands when they see fit.

Check internal temperature

Meat and poultry need to be cooked to their recommended minimum internal cooking temperature in order to reduce the amount of pathogenic bacteria to a safe level. So, use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat before serving.

Store food at proper temperature

To prevent pathogenic bacteria from multiplying and reaching a dangerous level, keep hot foods hot (135°F or above) and cold foods cold (41 °F or below). Do not leave food out for more than 2 hours.

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader: Food Safety Edition

There is a lot to learn about food safety, from killing off pathogenic bacteria to prevent spreading foodborne illnesses, to how to properly prepare an allergy-safe meal, and much more. However, when you get down to it, it’s really not that complicated or difficult.

Let’s see what these elementary school students know about these food safety topics.

How Do You Kill Bacteria?

What happens when bacteria gets too hot?

Heating up food kills off bacteria and reduces it to a safe level. That’s why it is important to heat TCS food to its recommended minimum internal cooking temperature.

What happens when bacteria gets too cold?

Keeping food cold slows the rate at which bacteria can multiply, keeping the amount of bacteria at a safe level until it’s time to use. Properly storing and refrigerating TCS food and keeping it out of the temperature danger zone (40°F - 140°F) will prevent pathogenic bacteria from multiplying and causing a foodborne illness.

 

When Does Food Go Bad?

These kids got it: if food is squishy, bruised, or moldy, THROW IT OUT!

If there is mold on food, can you just scrape it off?

No, you should not just scrape it off. If you see mold on anything, it’s time to throw the whole thing out.

 

What Do Health Inspectors Do?

Health inspectors check to make sure that everything is up to code and check for violations.

Are health inspectors our friends or the enemy?

If you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, they are your friends. But if you’re doing something unsafe, they might not be your friend. Regardless, it is important to take them seriously, as it is their job to make sure everyone is always food safe.

 

Buffets

When at a self-serve buffet, do not use your bare hands. Use the tongs provided, and do not use the same one for different foods. This prevents cross-contamination as well as allergen cross-contact.

What should you do if you see this at a buffet?

If you see someone using their hands, mixing up the serving utensils, or sneezing on the food, you should alert the staff immediately so that someone can switch it out for fresh, safer food.

 

What are Food Allergies or Intolerance?

People can have a food allergy to any number of foods, although there are 8 common food allergens.

Food allergens can be hidden in food, accidentally added in, or have proteins prevent due to cross-contact.

What are the symptoms of an allergic reaction?

Symptoms of an allergic reaction to a food allergen can include:

  •        Flushing/redness of the skin and hives
  •        Abdominal pain, diarrhea, or constipation
  •        Nausea and/or vomiting
  •        A sudden fall in blood pressure causing weakness, dizziness, and even unconsciousness
  •        Difficulty in swallowing or speaking due to the swelling of the throat and tongue
  •        Difficulty breathing due to constricting of the airways
  •        Severe asthma
  •        Collapse & unconsciousness (anaphylactic shock)

These can range from minor to life-threatening.

Is gluten intolerance the same as a food allergy?

A wheat allergy is different than gluten intolerance or sensitivity. Similar to lactose intolerance, people with a gluten intolerance can eat gluten without life-threatening side effects, but it will cause them discomfort. Symptoms of a gluten sensitivity include brain fog, fatigue, gas, bloating, and headaches.

Also not a food allergy, there is also Celiac Disease. This is an autoimmune disease where ingesting gluten can cause damage to the small intestine, causing long-term health complications.

 

Lightening Round

What should you do if you saw a rodent?

Don’t call the police or the animal shelter—tell your manager so that they can call a pest control specialist.

How long should you wash your hands?

Wash your hands for 20 seconds, or as long as it takes you to sing the ABCs.

What does HACCP stand for?

This one is a tricky one. HACCP stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, which according to the FDA, is a management system in which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical, and physical hazards during food production.

 

These kids are smart, but if you are handling food, you will need to learn more. To become smarter than a fifth grader when it comes to food safety, check out our food handler training.