Food Safety Training Becoming More of a Priority
Training is critical to help workers keep food safety top of mind
Putting safety first.
It’s something you hear and read about a lot nowadays in the world of food safety.
But are foodservice handlers and others who work with food really doing it?
These days—more and more—thankfully the answer is YES!
Here at Stop Foodborne Illness, we’re seeing more evidence showing that food safety is becoming strongly embedded in the culture of food establishments. Restaurants, school cafeterias, grocery stores, food trucks, and other places that make/manufacture and sell/distribute food are making safety THE top priority to protect consumers from foodborne illness.
Let’s take a closer look at the issues at hand and what’s being done in the realm of food safety training to educate and motivate workers.
Food Safety Training: Problems in the Past
When you think about how a chef or a waitress at your favorite restaurant is trained before they begin to cook up and serve food to you, you probably envision that person going through a very comprehensive training on food safety.
Unfortunately, for many years this was NOT the case.
The reality is that, for a long time, food safety training was something that sat on the sidelines. It wasn’t an integral part of how someone working with food was trained to do his or her job. Emphasis was placed on other things—often in the name of money and profits.
As more food is prepared and eaten outside our homes, it stands to reason that data from foodborne disease outbreaks shows that eating food prepared in restaurants and other food establishments is potentially a big source of infection.
Prior to the 1993 E. coli O157:H7 Jack-in-the-Box outbreak, a major part of food safety and inspection relied on sight, touch, and smell. As we know, this is certainly not an effective approach. After that horrific outbreak, which killed four children and caused 400 illnesses, the public demanded change. Shortly thereafter, a movement toward science-based inspection with a strong focus on preventing disease transmission was born. Concurrently, the National Restaurant Association began an active yearly campaign to celebrate National Food Safety Month every September.
Food Safety Training: How Things Are Improving Now
Today, especially considering the recent spike in media attention and a growing public concern for food safety, managers responsible to train food service workers realize that reputations are built on a company’s food safety record, and are more focused on making sure food safety is a key element in their training.
One story that demonstrates this dedication to food safety training centers on Mr. Jorge Hernandez, former Chief Food Safety Officer for Wholesome International and Stop Foodborne Illness board member. Based in Pittsburgh, Wholesome International is a 40-unit franchise of the Five Guys burger brand and operator of four Choolaah Indian BBQ eateries. As Mr. Hernandez points out in this article, “In the past you were trained to be a cook or food preparer or dishwasher and, on top of that, you learned about food safety. But for us, it is all integrated. As you learn your job, you learn that you must change your gloves, you learn that you must take temperatures, all the time.”
Wholesome’s training program emphasizes that food safety procedures are MANDATORY elements of all kitchen tasks—even when the pace of work is frenetic. This includes practices like washing hands; using gloves; cooking food to a safe temperature; keeping heated food hot; keeping cooled food cold; and using separate cutting boards/utensils for raw and cooked food. They make sure workers understand that being busy is NEVER an excuse to cut corners on safety.
This is sweet music to our food-safety-loving ears.
And the stories abound.
Here’s a short list of additional stories you can check out to learn more about how food safety training is becoming embedded in the culture of food safety establishments. The first one is especially close to us because it features our friend, Dan Sutton, General Manager of the Pismo Oceano Vegetable Exchange, and our efforts to help train his staff.
Coaching is Crucial to Food Safety Success
Global Food Safety Initiative:
Food Safety Enabling Growth and Economic Progress
With more and more companies and food service workers really taking to heart that food safety tasks are paramount to doing their jobs well, we as consumers can feel confident that the food we sit down to eat will be safe.