Food Safety Training
Eating out is fun and having meals away from home has become a national pastime. The National Restaurant Association reports 4.1 meals are eaten away from home each week. Currently it is estimated that over $2,500 a year is spent by the average family on eating out. Almost half of all dollars spent eating away from home are spent on take‑out foods. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that consumers spend forty-three cents of every food dollar eating out. A fast growing trend is for food to be prepared away from home, then taken or delivered home for consumption.
Whether you are eating out, having food delivered in, or preparing it yourself, food safety should be foremost in your mind. The CDC estimates foodborne illnesses affects 48 million people annually in the United States, causing an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000. The National Restaurant Association estimates the average cost of a food-borne illness outbreak to an establishment to be $75,000. Other collateral damage associated with an outbreak would be the loss of customers and employees, a damaged reputation, negative media attention, low staff morale, increased insurance premiums and the need for retraining staff. A food service establishment linked to a foodborne illness outbreak can expect a thirty-five percent drop in business and a year of hard work to rebound if they don’t go out of business. So it is to the best interest of all to store, prepare and serve food safely.
Our local board of health is concerned about food safety and preventing foodborne illnesses in our county. With their support, North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County and the Environmental Section of the Lee County Health Department provide food service businesses with a nationally recognized food safety and sanitation class called ServSafe. Together we have taught this program since 1998.
Plans are to hold our twenty-eighth SERVSAFE class in April. The class will be offered to food service managers, crew leaders and supervisors. Participants will be trained, tested and certified in critical food safety practices. The course will cover food safety; personal hygiene; how to use food thermometers and keep temperature log; how to safely prepare, store, cook, hold, reheat and serve food. Throughout the fourteen-hour class, emphasis will be placed on methods of cleaning and sanitizing. By participating in this class our local food establishments show their customers that they really do come first. Readers are encouraged to speak with the managers of their favorite restaurant and encourage them to sign up for the course. If they have successfully completed one of our classes, they should have on their wall, often near their inspection grade card or cash register, their ServSafe certificate. By keeping food service employees trained and keeping the food safety message before them and the public, Lee County has not had a documented foodborne outbreak linked to a county restaurant or catering business for well over thirteen years. Participation in this program will benefit the establishment and possibly protect you from becoming sick due to contaminated food. For more information about the SERVSAFE class, call the Cooperative Extension Service at 775-5624.
Susan Condlin is the Family and Consumer Education Extension Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.