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56% of foodborne illnesses in school can be attributed to norovirus

It seems to be a buzz phrase you hear thrown around lately, “food safety culture.” It’s everywhere and it’s important because until everyone is aware of and prepared with food safety training and education, we’ll continue to see foodborne illness outbreaks around the globe.

So how do we create that food safety culture? Well, we start with educating young people! Food safety education creates an awareness of the dangers of improper food safety and that awareness begins to create a standard of expectation.

Here are some ways of bringing food safety education into schools:

56% of foodborne illnesses associated with outbreaks in schools can be attributed to norovirus, a highly contagious stomach illness that can cause diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach pain. Anyone handling food can easily contaminate and spread the illness.

Food-safe schools take a school-wide approach to food safety, and with the help of partners in the school community, create a culture of food safety.

Food-safe schools have two main ingredients (pun intended):

• They are built on comprehensive procedures, policies, and plans that address the science of food safety.
• They address people’s behavior to encourage the use of food safety procedures, policies, and plans.

So how do you create a food-safe school?

First, you have to either create a food safety policy or review the one you already have. The policy review should acknowledge important food safety efforts that are already in place, as well as identify ways to strengthen and expand on those efforts.

Keep in mind the overall policies that are in place in the food industry as a whole and train and educate based on those practices. Food allergies are another element of food safety and it’s just as important to carefully implement procedures to protect those students with allergies.

It’s also important to plan and prepare to respond to foodborne illness outbreaks in the school.

Proper food safety training and awareness will help food staff and students alike, be aware of the procedures. Employee health is also an important factor when it comes to creating a food safety culture.

Once your policy is in place and in practice, it’s important to communicate with other districts, families, and communities. Spread the word about food safety because you can’t build a food safety culture without a collective effort.

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More than 15% of school-aged children with food allergies have had an allergic reaction at school

BAck to school drawn on a blackboard with chalk

As August turns into September every school-aged child begins to think, and probably worry about, if their friends will still be friends, if the course material will be too challenging, if their teachers will be nice, or if they’ll make that sports team they’ve been planning on trying out for.

However, for kids with food allergies, those concerns only add to the other concerns they’re having. They’re wondering if everyone in their class knows not to bring peanut products, if the lunchroom staff knows they can’t have eggs or gluten, if the teachers know that rewarding with food treats can be life threatening, or if the other children will make fun of them for not being able to eat the same foods. According to the Food Allergy Research and Education website, more than 15% of school-aged children with food allergies have had an allergic reaction at school. These reactions can range anywhere from mild to fatal. It’s a serious concern and awareness is essential.

So, how do we help those kids with food allergies? We have to make teachers, parents, and other students aware of the dangers and how they can help be part of a solution.

Here are a few tips:

Classrooms can be food-free
It might be the easiest route to just keep all food out of the classroom. That way, no one has to worry or think about what’s allowed in and what’s restricted.
Restrict Identified Allergens from Classrooms
If snacks aren’t taken out of the classrooms completely, it needs to be well-known by all students, teachers, and parents which foods are dangerous allergens. Those foods must be restricted from snacks, parties, or other activities.
Find Fun and Inclusive Ways to Celebrate
It’s a wonderful gesture to bring treats and snacks into the classroom for parties and holidays, but that gesture can marginalize or be dangerous to some kids. Instead, try extra recess or celebrate with games and free-time.
Educate Your Kids
Inclusion and acceptance can go a long way in helping any child adapt. If everyone knows that there are just some foods that are dangerous for their classmates, understanding and recognition can happen.
Seek out Resources
In addition to explaining to kids about food allergies, find activities, resources, videos, or testimonials to share with children in, and out of the classroom. If the ideas are delivered in a fun and inclusive manner, children are more likely to respond to that information.

All-in-all, excluding foods from the classroom as opposed to excluding children from participating in activities is the best way to handle food allergies at school. Kids with food allergies will have their own emergency plans and their parents will have discussed with staff and teachers what to do in the event of a reaction. In order to ensure everyone has the opportunity to learn, grow, and enjoy school, allergen awareness is critical. Remember, safety isn’t a privilege, it’s a fundamental right to every child in every classroom. To learn more about allergen awareness training visit our website:

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Health Inspection Ratings Now on Yelp!

Yelp Logo

The CDC estimates that each year, 48 million people get sick from a foodborne illness, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. Food safety is more important than ever and is becoming a hot topic issue. With states continuing to reform and pass laws that create stricter food safety requirements, it’s no surprise that Yelp is now going to publish health inspection ratings along with reviews.

The update is part of the company’s Local Inspector Value Entry Specification, or LIVES, program. The health inspection score will update on a business’s page to reflect the most current information regarding hygiene.

The emphasis on food safety and the dedication to unifying the restaurant industry is something that will only continue to gain attention. Yelp is hoping that publishing health inspection scores will have a positive impact on consumers and the industry itself. Apparently, the first few major cities in which Yelp included the scores along with the reviews have seen a decrease in hospitalizations from foodborne illness. In addition, posting hygiene scores on Yelp has led to a 12 percent decrease in purchase intentions for restaurants with low scores relative to those with higher scores.

The push for food safety highlights the importance of hygiene, food rotation, and allergy awareness. Consumers can already locate health code ratings through other avenues with some digging, but mobile devices make it easier for customers to rely on reviews for restaurant suggestions. Adding health scores will provide consumers with more information for that selection process.

Next time you’re browsing for lunch options on your road trip, you won’t have to take the chance that food poisoning will ruin your getaway; just check the health inspection ratings on Yelp!

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NACUFS turns 60 – Will you be at the national conference?

The National Association of College & University Food Services logo

In 2018, the National Association of College and University Food Services (NACUFS), turns 60.
To celebrate, they’re holding their National Conference in Providence, Rhode Island. There are
a lot of reasons they chose Providence to host their diamond jubilee and we’re looking forward
to all the exciting things that will happen from July 11 th -14 th . The theme will display the 60 or
more things to discover at the conference.

Providence is a quintessential New England town, but don’t be fooled by the quaint and cozy nature of its atmosphere. Home to eight colleges and universities, Providence mixes the accessibility and walk-ability of a smaller city with the culture of a much bigger one. This friendly yet sophisticated city has an impressive culinary scene as well as eclectic shops, museums, theaters, and historic neighborhoods.


Johnson and Wales University is a career-oriented university and its main and largest campus is located in Providence, Rhone Island. Since NACUFS is dedicated to collegiate dining it makes perfect sense that they’d choose Providence for their National Conference location with JWU’s first campus located there as well. NACUFS has spent the last 60 years dedicated to the success and excellence of collegiate dining and, at Always Food Safe, we’ve dedicated our time and lives to promoting food safety training. We’re excited to attend the conference and even more excited to promote NACUFS’s mission. From benchmarking and best practices, to educational programming and professional networking, NACUFS has prioritized health and safety in collegiate dining.

The association’s membership consists of approximately 550 institutions of higher education from across the U.S. and Canada, and nearly 500 industry members from the food, equipment, and consulting market segments. Always Food Safe is excited to attend the National Conference for four days of high energy education, idea sharing, networking, fun, and collaboration. The conference brings together the best and brightest from campus dining departments around the country to learn, share, and get inspired. If you’re also attending, send us an email, we’d love to meet up and explain a little bit about ourselves and what how our mission aligns with NACUFS.

See you in Rhode Island!

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Enjoy your picnic this summer

There’s something whimsical and child-like about a picnic. Whether you’re planning for romance or just plain fun, picnics are the perfect activity for a warm summer day. It might seem like an easy solution for boredom too since there’s no on-site cooking or raw meat involved. However, you’ll be traveling and eating outside without the benefit of refrigeration. Here are a few tips to help keep your picnic food safe without having to compromise the easy nature that makes them so much fun!

It’s Cool to be Cool

  • You still need a cooler for things that are perishable. Use the cute picnic basket Instagram photos and for non-perishable items, napkins, and dinnerware. Pack all items you’d store in the fridge in a cooler. A cooler will also keep your drinks cool because nothing ruins a picnic like a room-temp drink.
  • Keep your cooler cool. This might seem obvious but beyond packing a cooler full of ice, it’s a good idea to keep it in the shade. Keep in mind that if you have leftovers, you’ll need to keep those stored in the cooler for the trip home so bringing enough ice to get you through the picnic and home is important.

Make the Right Food Choices

  • Try to bring as many non-perishable food items as possible. Vinegar-based salads and dips without dairy don’t spoil easy. Bring manageable amounts of perishable food; you won’t need 2 pounds of potato salad for 4 people and it’ll be harder to transport.
  • Don’t eat food that’s been left out for longer than 2 hours, even if it still looks good

Planning and Packing

  • Organize your food items; keep things that could leak in spill-proof containers. Consider more than one cooler for beverages and another for perishable food items so that every time someone opens and closes the cooler to grab a soda, the food isn’t exposed to heat.
  • Use resealable bags for sandwiches, fruit, cheese, fruits, and veggies and place those on top so they don’t get crushed. Plus you’ll want to pack those at the last minute so they’re store in the fridge for as long as possible.

Whether you’re taking your picnic to the local park, pool, or beach; are planning a meal after a hike, or you just know of the perfect grassy spot, picnicking is always an adventure! Make sure to follow these tips to so that the only unwelcome guests at your picnic are ants, not food poisoning!

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Food Poisoning: The Worst Contribution to a Potluck Since the Jell-O Mold

Ok, so let’s talk about potlucks. They can be a great freaking time but the very concept of a potluck can be a breeding ground for E.coli.

That said, you’ve decided you’ll host a party but everyone has to bring a dish of their choice—or maybe it’s your work’s annual employee potluck. Either way, you’re going to make your famous devilled eggs and you’re crossing your fingers that Janet from accounting is bringing those caramel bars she made the year before.

The thing is, potlucks typically take place during the warm summer months in someone’s backyard. With the hot summer sun beating down on your table of noodle salad and grilled chicken, what once was a smorgasbord of homemade delights has the potential of becoming a buffet table of bacteria and self-loathing.

To ensure your contribution isn’t illness and that no one leaves with more than leftovers, here are some tips for potluck safety:

While You’re Prepping

  • Wash your hands—it seems silly we have to remind any adult of that but when you’re bringing food to serve other people, wash them twice.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by using separate utensils and plates to cut veggies and raw meat.
  • Wash produce really well. You don’t want to get blamed for food-poisoning when it was the veggies all along.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check that the meat is cooked thoroughly. The color test doesn’t always indicate something is fully-cooked.

At the Party

  • Transport food in proper storage bags: a cooler for cold foods and an insulated bag for hot foods.
  • Keep food refrigerated until the time of the party.
  • Replace empty plates and serving dishes instead of adding new food onto dishes that have sat out. Plus, think of all the hands and flies that have touched the platter. Don’t add new food to it.
  • THROW AWAY any perishable foods that sit out for longer than 2 hours.

Extra Tips and Suggestions

  • Don’t try to feed an army—if 30 people are invited, your one dish doesn’t have to feed all of them.
  • Know the culprits—if you’re late to the party and are unsure how long that mayo, pea, and noodle salad has been sitting out, it’s probably best not to chance it; even if it looks really good.
  • Bring something that will hold up through the party—potlucks usually have people going back for seconds (or thirds, we’re not judging!) so try to plan a dish that won’t spoil when left out for a bit. At the very least, bring a cooler to store it in if you’re bringing potato salad.
  • Bring serving utensils—your host will likely have a few spoons and the like but not a dozen. Bring a serving utensil that suits your dish so there’s no cross-contamination and so that no one feels tempted to reach in and grab things with their hands.
  • This last one is just a personal preference but something we’re pretty passionate about—there is nothing worse than seeing a jar of homemade pickles at the end of the table and mentally prepping for how you’re going to take as many as you’d like without looking like a glutton. Only to discover, after you’ve piled about 17 on your plate, that they’re actually bread and butter pickles.
    That’s deceitful and, quite frankly, cruel. Don’t do it. Bring dill pickles and not those atrocities that disguise themselves as pickles. And, while we’re on the topic of terrible things that have no place in decent society, leave that Jell-O mold at home. If (because you’re Satan) you insist on bringing one, don’t try to slip anything weird into the Jell-O like carrots, that’s just plain uncool.
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5 Tips for Safe Grilling when having a barbecue

Summer is finally here and along with spending more time enjoying all that nature has to offer, you’re probably pretty excited to fire up that grill.


While there’s nothing better than the taste or smell of food fresh from the grill, there’s something to be said about the added safety concerns. Whether it’s the fact that nothing pairs better with a juicy burger than a good, crisp and cold beer, that grilling is basically cooking on an open flame, or a combination of the two, the risks associated with backyard grilling can make a great summer get-together crash and burn.

In an attempt to keep the only burning you experience this summer the kind that causes tan lines, we’ve compiled a list of 5 tips for safe grilling.

1. Keep your Grill at Least 10 Feet from the House

It might sound self-explanatory but the further you keep the grill away from your house the safer it is. You can’t ever really anticipate the winds and when the grill gets hot, the flames get tall. You shouldn’t keep the grill under any carports, garages, or porches either. It’s fine to store them there just take the grill out to do the actual cooking.

2. Clean your Grill Thoroughly

Keeping a clean grill not only makes your food taste better, but it reduces the risk of flare-ups. There are definite ways to clean your grill safely but you should at least use a brush in between each grill session to scrape off any food particles that could catch fire.

3. Make Sure You’re Cooking the Meat Long Enough

This is true regardless of how you’re cooking meat but when you’re grilling it can be harder to manage cooking temperature to ensure the products are cooked all the way through. Using the color indicator for cooking poultry isn’t reliable and you should always have a food thermometer to make sure you’ve reached a safe internal temp.

4. Don’t Cross Contaminate

When you’re cooking on the grill, it’s tempting to use the same utensils for your chicken, burgers, and hot dogs, but that’s not safe. Use separate, clean, plates and utensils for raw, cooked, and ready-to-eat food. It’s easier to wash a few extra dishes than have a house full of sick people.

5. Properly Store Leftovers

Store all leftovers in the fridge or freezer quickly. When you’re grilling for a get-together or even just for your family, it can be tempting to leave the leftovers for later and enjoy the day. It’s important to never leave containers or food out on the counters. Never let your food sit out for more than an hour or two. This is particularly important in the summer heat and humidity.

Now that you’ve got a few grilling safety tips, get out there and enjoy your summer with great company, great food, and make some great memories. We’ll take a cheeseburger with fried onions as long as you’re grilling.

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Allergen Awareness training enforced in Illinois from July 1st

Working in the restaurant industry in Illinois I’m sure you’ve heard a little bit of information here and there about Allergen Awareness training, however here’s your one stop shop telling you everything you need to know!

So, what is exactly is going on?

Great question, in 2017 the state of Illinois became the 6th state in the U.S. to enact a law requiring all certified food protection managers (CFPMs) working in a restaurant to complete additional allergen training using an approved allergen awareness training program. With over 15 million Americans suffering from food allergies, the implementation is long overdue!

On July 1st, this law will be enforced.

Full a full breakdown visit the Illinois department of Health page .

What does enforced mean?

Basically, from July 1st when a Health Inspector walks into a restaurant they will be asking all CFPMs to show proof of their Allergen Awareness training.

I’m a manager, but I’m not qualified/my other managers in Allergen training

Luckily, there are easy options available to get certified quickly and cost-effectively. Always Food Safe has a fun and informative food allergen awareness course that is competitively priced and completed all online.

Take a look at our state accredited Allergen Awareness training