With September being National Food Safety Education Month, it’s important to note that education about keeping food safe and preparing it safely applies to the restaurants where we eat as well as the homes where we live. And in both situations, you’ll hear about two things over and over now and forever: cleanliness and hand washing.
Beginning with the restaurant perspective, a key factor right now is the new Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code, scheduled for adoption at the start of 2018. At that time, the FDA’s new code will be adopted into the Illinois Food Service Sanitation Code. And that means Will County Health Department food inspectors will have their eyes on even more requirements than in the past.
One of those additional requirements will be the Person in Charge rule. Under the updated code, the initial Person in Charge will be a food establishment’s original permit holder, or will be designated by the permit holder when he or she is not present. The Person in Charge will need to demonstrate a knowledge of food borne disease prevention, the application of food safety principals, and the FDA Food Code’s new requirements. Not having designated a Person in Charge that fulfills these requirements will result in a violation.
In addition, all of the common sense requirements food inspectors have watched for years will still be top priority. This includes everything from proper food temperatures at delivery, storage, preparation, and display; proper sanitation of utensils and equipment; and proper handwashing and sanitation for employees.
Meanwhile, back in our own homes, Will County Environmental Health Director Tom Casey says with all the young kids that usually want to “help out” in the kitchen, parents should take advantage and turn their desires into a good ‘teaching moment.’
“Childhood is great time,” Casey said, “to start teaching good hygiene. Learning right from wrong in the kitchen is something they will carry with them for the rest of their lives, and hopefully pass on to their children as well.”
Casey says this can cover so many different areas, depending upon the age of the child. “Chores can be things like setting the table; carrying glasses, plates, and utensils the right way; and unloading the dishwasher. But in all cases, none of them should be done without property washing your hands with warm water, soap, and a paper towel. And then washing them again after any unsanitary task like taking out garbage, petting the dog, using the restroom, or handling raw meat products.”
Casey says children and families need to be educated that not only does food safety begin with clean hands, it also begins with clean surfaces. Many kitchen counters are often used for mail, newspapers, magazines, or anything else that just “needs somewhere to go.”
“Countertops are a ‘catch all’ in most homes,” Casey reminded. “Children should be taught that you should not begin preparing any foods until the countertops, pots and pans, utensils, and cutting boards are properly cleaned and sanitized for the purpose of food preparation.”
For more on National Food Safety Education Month, go to https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2016/09/15/september-national-food-safety-education-month