Personal hygiene:


1). How many times should a busser have to wash their hands during their shift?

Hands should be washed between tasks and each time they become contaminated.  Therefore, if you are bussing or cleaning tables, it is necessary to wash your hands before handling anything that is clean, such as utensils, plates, or glasses.  To reduce the number of times the bus person should wash their hands, it may be a good idea to group the tasks that they do.  For example, one person could  be assigned to clean tables, taking out the trash, etc. and a different person could be assigned to setting the tables and handling other clean items.  This way, their job does not pose the potential risk of cross-contamination. 


2). What is a good uniform policy concerning aprons?

When implementing a uniform policy it is important to remember that the uniform is there to protect the food from being contaminated by the worker; not the worker from being contaminated by the food.  Therefore, all uniforms, including aprons, should be clean and in good condition.  Stressing good personal hygiene, such as wearing clean clothes and appropriate hair restraints (ie. hats, hairnets, etc.) and removing jewelry should also be incorporated in a uniform policy. 

Keep in mind that uniforms should be removed when going to the restroom or when taking out the trash. Uniforms that become contaminated or soiled during the course of a shift should be replaced with a clean one.


Micro-world and foodborne illness:


3). Why did the upper limit of the temperature danger zone change from 140 degrees Farenheit to 135 degrees Farenheit?

The FDA lowered the holding temperature for hot potentially hazardous food from 140 degrees Farenheit to 135 degrees Farenheit based on input from the Conference for Food Protection, and its study. It was determined that enough scientific information existed to warrant this temperature change. Technical studies of key foodborne pathogens showed that the upper limits of their growth range are well below 140 degrees Farenheit (e.g. Bacillus cereus 122 degrees Farenheit; Clostridium perfringens 127.5 degrees Farenheit; Clostridium botulinum 118 degrees Farenheit; Staphylococcus aureus 122 degrees Farenheit). The temperature change was incorporated into the supplement to the FDA Food Code.

The change to the hot holding temperature affects the holding temperature for plant food, the storage temperature of in-use utensils, and the cooling temperature parameters. 


4). Why does two-stage cooling seem to contradict to the "4-hour rule"?

While it may appear on the surface that two-stage cooling contradicts the "4-hour rule" you need to look closely at the two-stage cooling method to get the full story. In the past, restaurants had four hours straight through, to cool food to 41 degrees Farenheit or lower. Now the FDA recommends cooling food in two stages- Stage 1- from 135 degrees Farenheit to 70 degrees Farenheit within two hours;  then, Stage 2- from 70 degrees Farenheit to 41 degrees Farenheit or lower in an additional four hours, for a total cooling time of six hours.  However, this does not mean that you have six hours straight through to accomplish the entire cooling method.  It is important to realize that if the food does not reach 70 degrees Farenheit in two hours, you cannot continue to cool the food; you must take corrective action, which means doing one of two choices: the food must be reheated to 165 degrees Farenheit for 15 seconds within two hours before another attempt at cooling can be made; or it must be discarded.

To cool food quickly from 135 degrees Farenheit to 70 degrees Farenheit, a quick chill method (such as an ice bath or ice paddles) must be used. Because you are able to cool food at a rate of over 67 degrees an hour, it is reasonable to say that if you continue to use the same method, it will not take the entire four hours you have left to cool the food to 41 degrees Farenheit or lower.

It is important to mention the method behind all this madness. We know that foodborne microorganisms grow rapidly in the temperature range from 41 - 135 degrees Farenheit, known as the temperature danger zone, but there is also a range of temperatures within the temperature danger zone, from 70 degrees Fareneheit to 125 degrees Farenheit where foodborne microorganisms grow particularly quickly. What a two-stage cooling process does is move food through this range as quickly as possible (under two hours, in fact), to minimize the time it spends in this dangerous range.


5). Why are garlic-in-oil mixtures considered potentially hazardous foods?

A potentially hazardous food is one in which foodborne pathogens are able to grow quickly. To be able to grow, these microorganisms need several conditions that can be described using the acronym FAT TOM.

  • they need a Food source for nutrients,

  • the food must be at the right Acidity,

  • they also need enough Time at the right Temperature to multiply to levels that will make people sick or to produce toxins,

  • they also need appropriate Oxgen levels, and

  • the food must have Moisture.

Garlic-in-oil mixtures provide the perfect environment for the growth of Clostridium botulinum if steps to prevent it are not taken. Garlic is naturally contaminated with C. botulinum because it is grown in the soil where this microorganism can be found. C.botulinum is an anaerobic miroorganism, which means it can only grow when oxygen is not present. The fact that heavy oil seals out most oxygen combined with the fact that the garlic in these mixtures is usually roasted (which increases available moisture) gives this bug more than enough food and water to grow rapidly. Of course, if given enough time at the right temperature (which is provided when the mixture is stored at room temperature) C. botulinum is able to grow and produce its deadly toxin. To prevent the growth of this microorganism, only use garlic-in-oil mixtures that have been properly treated by the manufacturer. Often acidifying agents are added to the products as C.botulinum does not like acidic food and will die. As an additional step, it is also a good idea to refrigerate garlic-in-oil mixtures to prevent the growth of this foodborne pathogen.


6). Why are foil wrapped baked potatoes and other cooked vegetables considered potentially hazardous foods?

Raw vegetables do not provide the right environment for foodborne microorganisms to grow, but it's a different story once they've been cooked. Foil wrapped baked potatoes, grilled onions, and refried beans have all been known to cause outbreaks of foodborne illness. The cookig process introduces extra moisture and may alter the vegetable's pH, allowing foodborne pathogens, which are naturally found on vegetables that grow on or in the soil, to grow. Care must be taken to properly cook, hold, cool and reheat vegetables to prevent the conditions that will allow foodborne pathogens to grow.


7). Why are sprouts a potentially hazardous food?

Sprouts have only recently emerged as a recognized cause of foodborne illness.  Health officials have attributed 13 food-borne disease outbreaks worldwide to sprouts. Ten of these outbreaks occurred in the United States, resulting in illnesses in at least 956 Americans and at least one death.

Four of the outbreaks were caused by shiga toxin-producing E.coli (also known as E.coli 0157:H7). Many of the outbreaks have involved raw alfalfa sprouts or mixed sprouts containing raw alfalfa sprouts contaminated with Salmonella.


8). Why was the lower limit of the temperature danger zone changed from 40 degrees Farenheit in previous versions of the ServSafe texts to 41 degrees Farenheit in the most recent?

As a result of partnerships developed between the industry, academia, and regulatory agencies, and to help promote uniformity between industry and regulatory standards, the ServSafe materials will use 41 degrees Farenheit (4 degrees Cellcius) as the lower limit of the temperature danger zone.


9). Should I put fish like amberjack and snapper on my menu since I really can't ensure they are safe?

Although you can never 100% guarantee the safety of any potentially hazardous food, there are some steps your establishment can take to make sure seafood is served safe to the best of your knowledge.

First start with a reputable supplier. This is especially important with these types of fish where ciguatera toxin can be found. Your supplier should be trusted to harvest fish only from approved waters. Upon receiving the fish, make sure employees check that the fish comes on clean ice, with little melted ice surrouding the fish, and that the internal temperature of the fish flesh is 41 degrees Farenheit or lower. Then the fish should be promptly stored in a refrigeration unit that will maintin this internal temperature. Preparation should minimize any risk for contamination and time and temperature abuse, and the fish should be cooked to an internal temperature that will eliminate any harmful microorganisms that may be present.


10). Where do the bacteria on seeds and sprouts come from?

It's believed that the seeds from which sprouts are derived are often the source. For example, some of the seeds may become contaminated by animals in the field or during post-harvest storage. Also, the use of animal manure in fields of alfalfa intended for non-human use may be a problem if seed is used for sprouting.

Following three foodborne disease outbreaks involving raw alfalfa sprouts, the FDA reaffirmed a warning that had been issued by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The advisory urged people at high risk for foodborne illness-children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems-to avoid raw alfalfa sprouts until methods to improve the safety of sprouts could be identified and put in place.

(From FDA Consumer magazine, (January-February 1999). 


Flow of Food:


11). Should ready-to-eat vegetables be washed before service? How?

It is always a good idea to wash produce in clean drinking water before eating or serving. This goes for all produce including ready-to-eat and even items such as melons and oranges.  Detergents and bleach should never be used in the cleaning process because produce items are porous and can absorb the detergent or bleach.  Produce may be washed with a vegetable wash that meets the requirements specified in 21 CFR 173.315.


12). What is the cooking temperature for steaks and chops vs. roasts? Why do roasts need to be cooked to 145 degrees Farenheit (63 degrees Cellcius) for 4 minutes, while steaks or chops only need to be cooked to 145 degrees Farenheit (63 degrees Cellcius) for 15 seconds?

The FDA Model Food Code recommends a minimum internal cooking temperature for pork chops or steaks of 145 degrees Farenheit for 15 seconds. The minimum internal cooking temperature for pork or beef roasts - as any of the alternate times and temperatures listed in Section 3-401.11 (B):  (e.g. 145 degrees Farenheit for 4 minutes; 130 degrees Farenheit for 112 minutes; 140 degrees Farenheit for 12 minutes; etc.). Because steaks or chops are thinner than roasts and therefore their internal temperatures are met quicker than a roast, the time that the internal temperature must be held for a steak is much shorter than that of roast to accommadate for the time that it "comes up to temperature".


13). Why is the boiling point method for calibrating a thermometer often less reliable than the ice-point method?

One method is no more reliable than the other method. The ice-point method is preferred over the boiling point method for reasons of safety and ease of use.

The boiling point method can pose a safety threat to individuals: with a temperature at 212 degrees Farenheit, burns from hot water or steam can occur.

The atmospheric pressure and altitude above sea level changes the boiling point of water 1 degree Farenheit lower for each 550 feet above sea level. That means an estabishment located 5,500 feet above sea level would have to adjust the pointer to 202 degrees Farenheit using this method.


14). Why can eggs be received at 45 degrees Farenheit (7 degrees Cellcius) while other potentially hazardous foods such as meat, poultry, and fish must be received at 41 degrees Farenheit (5 degrees Cellcius) or lower?

According to section 3-202.11 of the FDA Model Food Code, if a temperature other than 41 degrees Farenheit is specified by law governing the distribution of a potentially hazardous food, such as laws governing milk, molluscan shellfish, and shell eggs, the food may be received at the specified temperature. Current laws for interstate shipment of shell eggs allows a temperature of 45 degrees Farenheit.


15). How long can leftover meat and poultry be stored before it must be discarded?

According to section 3-501.18 of the FDA Model Food Code, ready-to-eat food should be kept for no more than 7 days at 41 degrees Farenheit or 4 days at 45 degrees Farenheit. If a dish is prepared from a leftover potentially hazardous ingredient, then the dish containing the leftover ingredient can be held for the remaining time of the leftover ingredient. For example, if cooked chicken has been stored at 41 degrees Farenheit for two days and is then used to prepare chicken salad, any leftover chicken salad is good for 5 more days. Of course, you may want to check with your local health department since their requirements may be different.



Facilities and equipment:


16). What is a product-mimicking device?

A product mimicking device is one that uses wireless sensors that simulate the density and moisture content of real food. These devices are used to measure the temperature of the food via food simulators, but without damaging the actual food product and without having to take the temperature of every food item around it. For example, if you need to monitor deli salads in a cold case, a product mimicking device will allow you to ensure the proper temperature of these items without contaminating or damaging the real food with a probe.

17). My dry goods storeroom is very hot- Is this really a food safety problem?

Dry storerooms should maintain a temperature between 50-70 degrees Farenheit with a humidity of 50-60%. Higher temperature or humdity levels could jeopardize the quality of your product, but more

importantly, these conditions attract pests and insects and provide an excellent breeding ground for roaches, flies, beetles and moths. If the temperature is too warm or the humidity too high, installing a temperature control device or a dehumidifier might help control the environment.


Sanitiation and pest control:


18). Are Material Safety Data Sheets required for all chemicals used in an operation?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that each operation have on file the necessary Material Safety Data Sheets for the hazardous chemicals stored at any establishment. Under the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (HCS), chemical manufacturers and suppliers are required to provide Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for each hazardous chemical at an establishment. Employers are required to provide information to their employees only about the hazardous chemicals to which they are exposed. OSHA does not require that the MSDS be provided to purchasers of household consumer products when the products are used in the workplace in the same manner and frequency as in the household. The information contained on the MSDS is designed to protect the employer and the employee from the hazards of chemical exposure and to enable them to work safely with chemical products. A Material Safety Data Sheet should contain the following information:

  • Information about safe use and handling

  • Physical, health, fire, and reactivity hazards

  • Precautions

  • Appropriate personnel protective equipment (PPE) to wear when using the chemical

  • First-aid information and steps to take in an emergency

  • Manufacturer's name, address, and phone number

  • Date the MSDS was prepared

  • Hazardous ingredients and identity information


19). What does PPM mean?

PPM stands for Parts Per Million, which is the ratio of a substance present in a 1,000,000 (1 million) portion of a (or another) substance. For example, if you divide a pie equally into 10 pieces, each piece would be a part-per-ten or one-tenth of the total pie. If you cut this pie into a million pieces, each piece would represent a millionth, or part per million, of the original pie. PPM is often used to indicate how much of a sanitizer should be used per a specified amount of water. For example, the recommended amount of chlorine used as a sanitizer for use on a food-contact surface is 50 ppm, which can also be written as 50mg/L. This means that to make a 50 ppm solution, you would need to add 50mg of chlorine to one liter of water. 


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