One in six Americans fall ill and 3,000 die each year due to food-borne illnesses. There were over 700 food recalls in 2016. Many cases of food borne illnesses go unreported, often because the symptoms resemble the flu. Germs can contaminate food in home kitchens, restaurants, grocery stores, and food manufacturing and processing plants.
Foodborne illnesses are preventable. Training is the best way to ensure food handlers know and follow safe food practices.
What is a Food-borne Illness? More than 250 food-borne diseases have been identified and most are infections caused by parasites, viruses, bacteria, harmful toxins, and chemicals. The CDC has found that 90% of all illnesses are caused by Salmonella, norovirus, Campylobacter, Toxoplasma, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria and Clostridium perfringens.
Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and stomach cramps and some illnesses can be life threatening. Children, older people, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop a foodborne illness. It’s called an outbreak if more than one person is sickened.
Sources of illness causing organisms include:
• Improper storage
• Contaminated water
• Improperly canned foods
• Undercooked meats, poultry, and seafood
• Fresh produce
• Unpasteurized dairy products
• Improperly refrigerated meats
• Sick or unhygienic food handlers
Food recalls are often due to pathogens, improper labelling, inspection issues, debris, and undeclared allergens. The related outbreaks are the result of poor sanitation and production methods at slaughterhouses, farms, and factories.
What is a Food Handler Certificate? As you can see, there are a lot of ways food can get contaminated and cause serious illnesses. Due the danger to the public of unsafe food handling practices, many states require food handlers to have a Food Handler Card. This usually involves the completion of a food handling course.
A food handler course will likely cover topics such as:
• Introduction to Food Safety
• Foodborne Diseases
• Food Spoilage
• Food and Temperature Control
• Preventing Food Contamination
• Food Receiving and Storage
• Pest Control
It’s the Law. Most states require that workers who handle, prepare, store, and serve food to the public complete accredited food safety training, pass an exam, and earn food handler certification. A food employee works with unpacked food, food equipment or utensils, or food-contact surfaces. Some states require that at least one employee is certified as a Food Safety Manager. The requirements vary by state.
It’s Your Job to Protect Public Health. When customers decide to eat at your restaurant, they are trusting that strangers will properly handle and prepare food and not make them sick. It is part of a food employee’s job to take all necessary steps to avoid contaminating food and sickening guests.
Mandatory food safety rules are set by your city, county, district, or state. Managers and employees of food establishments are likely required to ensure:
• Food and ingredients come from a safe source.
• Food is held at the correct holding temperatures.
• Food is cooked properly, especially meat, poultry, and pork.
• Food is handled to prevent cross-contamination from common work areas and utensils.
• Food handlers know how to prevent contamination.
• Food handlers wash their hands and don’t work when they’re sick.
It Makes You a Better Employee. No establishment wants to be the source of an outbreak; it’s bad for business. A nasty reputation from a food-borne illness scandal can plague a restaurant for years, requiring lots of money, hard work, and PR to fix. Remember the effects of outbreaks at Jack in the Box (1993) and Chipotle (2015)?
If you already have a current food handlers card, that’s one less step involved in getting ready to work. If the state doesn’t require certification, many food facilities will have workers complete food safety training.
It Could Save Your Life. This isn’t just about safe practices at work. You can use these food handling skills you learn at home, preventing illness among your family and friends. Things like thoroughly washing your hands and produce, storing food at the correct temperature, cooking food to the safe temp, and avoiding cross contamination can literally save your life.
Food Handler Training. It’s now obvious why food handler training is essential for preventing outbreaks in restaurants and at home. If you are a food handler or want to become one, the first step is learning what is required in your state and city. Next, find a reputable, accredited training provider in your area or online. Read the course description, outline, and objectives to ensure that it covers the required topics. Look for a program and a platform that works for your schedule.
Online training is one of the best ways for busy professionals to complete required education. Look for courses that are interactive and self-paced. 360training.com is a trusted provider of online training, including food handler’s courses. You’ll find easy-to-use, on-demand training that fits your needs. Enroll today!