Food handler Education is Necessary

On a recent inspection, I discovered a food handler who thought that pots, pans and dishes were to be put through a 3 compartment sink method and then put in the dishwasher! This was not her fault as the Manager had left, the Assistant Manager was away, and the person covering for the Assistant had called in sick. Though this was a small coffee shop serving mainly breakfast, coffee and lunch items, the risk was there to cause a foodborne illness. The food handler wasn’t even aware that the sanitizer levels were very low. She didn’t know how to test for the correct strength. The sinks had not been cleaned in a while and were quite dirty. What happened here is a result of lack of training. Once she was told how to properly sanitize, she then started to do so as I watched her. Sanitizing means to remove all contaminants present at the time. In foodservice, contaminants can be anything from molds to Listeria bacteria. Food handlers need to understand “why” they are required to sanitize instead of going through the motions mechanically without realizing simple mistakes can be deadly. Norwalk virus can commonly be spread through improper dishwashing. If the dishwasher temperature of the final rinse is not hot enough, the virus can stay on the dishes. When the next menu item is placed on the “clean” plate, the food picks up the virus and then is eaten by the customer. Once the virus has entered the body, it will multiply rapidly depending on the person’s immune system and cause an illness. What this inspections shows is that training of food handlers can reduce the risk of foodborne illness. If the food handler at the coffee shop had been properly trained, she would have washed the dishes in the dishwasher and used the sinks for warewashing as necessary. She would have known how to use test strips to check the color change for quats at the appropriate level. Food handlers need to understand how their techniques can increase food poisoning risks and learn effective ways to handle food safely since consumers are entitled to purchasing food at a restaurant without the risk of getting sick.

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ENVIRO-FOOD CONSULTING is a foodservice consulting business run by Sally de la Rue Browne, Certified Public Health Inspector and Food Safety Specialist.

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