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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.

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 Included with Always Food Safe Training

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.