September is National Food Safety Month
National Food Safety Month (NFSM) was created in 1994 to heighten the awareness of food safety education. Each year, the National Restaurant Association features a new theme and offers free resources for restaurant and foodservice industry professionals to help reinforce proper food safety practices and procedures. This year’s theme is “Notorious Virus”- how to protect against the leading causes of foodborne illness.
Texas mandate of statewide food handler certification goes into effect September 1
Texas Department of State Health Services updated its Food Code to primarily match the 2013 FDA Food Code. This also included a statewide food handler certification requirement in their new Texas Food Establishment Rules (TFER) which became effective October 11, 2015. This is not a national requirement from the FDA Food Code at this time but is becoming more common around the country.
Weather-related food safety guidance
We unfortunately know all too well the unpredictability and impact of Mother Nature. There have recently been floods, wildfires and tornadoes. Now we are entering the start of hurricane season. How ready are you?
You can start by reviewing your emergency procedures. Check with your corporate offices to see what guidance and procedures already exist. Of course, it is not only about protecting your food but knowing how to protect your staff and guests. While this newsletter cannot sufficiently address a complete emergency plan, it will provide some top-level guidance and direct you to some excellent resources.
Question: What can you tell me about sneeze guard requirements?
Answer: There is a lot of variability in requirements and enforcement on the presence of sneeze guards/glass partitions around the country. The FDA Food Code section is not very specific even though this food protection is considered a Critical/Priority violation. It states:
3-306.11 Food Display.
Except for nuts in the shell and whole, raw fruits and vegetables that are intended for hulling, peeling, or washing by the consumer before consumption, food on display shall be protected from contamination by the use of packaging; counter, service line, or salad bar food guards; display cases; or other effective means Maintenance of some type of sneeze guard/droplet protection is important to prevent contamination from guests’ sneezes and coughs and even for outside contaminants for outdoor settings. Sneeze guards need to be positioned high enough so consumers can reach the rear-most food items. While there is no definitive answer to how high a sneeze guard or glass partition, think about the height of the serving surface. Your sneeze guard provider will have information.
Fixed sneeze guards are often installed as part of kitchen design so will meet local standards at that time. When new protective barriers are being installed, check with your local health departments.
I am often asked about the need to have some type of protection for temporary buffet lines like the type seen in hotels or convention centers. Recently there does seem to be more attention being paid to these events and temporary guards and covers are being more frequently used.