Take Time to Reinforce the Basics of Food Safety
Food Safety Manager Certification is part of the FDA Food Code, food handler certificates are currently required in a few states, and health departments conduct inspections at various intervals. While all of this helps reinforce good food safety practices, outbreaks still occur. Some outbreaks come from foods tainted before receipt at your food service facilities while some are related to lapses in good food safety behaviors.
Recent articles and studies have been addressing good food safety practices, and earlier in October I attended the National Restaurant Association Quality Assurance Executive Study Group (NRAQA) in Philadelphia where the focus was Back to Basics.
CDC Restaurant Food Handling and Food Safety Practices Studies
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHSNet) conducts research on food safety behaviors and identify areas for improvement. Plain-language summaries of recent food safety projects, which focus on restaurant and food worker food handling and food safety practices, are available and can be used when talking about the "whys" behind good food safety practices. Review of the summaries indicates that attention to basic practices is lacking and needs continual emphasis—this includes handwashing, avoiding cross-contamination from raw to RTE foods, temperature control, and excluding ill employees from food prep. Several recent hepatitis outbreaks have highlighted the importance of basic hand hygiene practices as the source of that contaminant is always human fecal material. Learn more about some of the studies focused on food handling practices associated with foodborne illness.
Food Code Updates: Virginia and Alabama
In July, Virginia adopted the 2013 Food Code and 2015 Food Code Supplement. Violations previously designated as "Critical" or "Non-critical" will now be referred to as "Priority," "Priority foundation" or "Core" to better identify risk-based controls within the Regulations. Establishments have until July 1, 2018 to have at least one employee with supervisory and management responsibility to be a Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM). For more information about the changes, see the 2016 Food Regulation Update in the Virginia Department of Health newsletter.
As of October 3, Alabama adopted the 2013 Food Code. A major change to the inspection form is an increase to the point values of various deductions. For more information, see the Alabama Department of Public Health 2013 Food Code Changes—What You Need to Know brochure.
This is a reminder to sign up for food recall notices from the FDA. Food recalls are not limited to unusual foods or obscure producers. Unfortunately contamination has been seen in common items like flour, ice cream and frozen strawberries. Recalls may be related to foodborne illness outbreaks, suspicion of contamination, undeclared allergens or physical contaminants. Sometimes recalled items have already been moved through the food chain to become ingredients in other foods. It is important to pay attention to recalls since these foods may end up in your facility. There are also services available that will communicate with you regarding recalls that may impact you and your brand. For more information on recalls, market withdrawals and safety alerts, visit the recall page of the FDA website.
Question: What length beards need to be covered by a beard restraint?
Answer: The Food Code 2-402.11 (Effectiveness of Hair Restraints) says. (A) Except as provided in paragraph (B) of this section, FOOD EMPLOYEES shall wear hair restraints such as hats, hair coverings or nets, beard restraints, and clothing that covers body hair, that are designed and worn to effectively keep their hair from contacting exposed FOOD; clean EQUIPMENT, UTENSILS, and LINENS; and unwrapped SINGLE-SERVICE and SINGLE-USE ARTICLES. (B) This section does not apply to FOOD EMPLOYEES such as counter staff who only serve BEVERAGES and wrapped or PACKAGED FOODS, hostesses, and wait staff if they present a minimal RISK of contaminating exposed FOOD; clean EQUIPMENT, UTENSILS, and LINENS. Food Code does not specify a length that would not require covering. Some health departments require a beard cover no matter the length. Others allow goatees or short well-trimmed beards. Some corporate policies designate what length/type of beard must be covered.