Category: Food Production

Jersusalem Shawarma facing backlash after suspected norovirus outbreak at Calgary restaurants

A family-owned chain of Calgary shawarma restaurants is facing backlash after Alberta Health Services revealed a suspected norovirus outbreak linked to their restaurants.
According to AHS, nearly 130 people have registered complaints that they fell ill after eating food from Jerusalem Shawarma.
AHS said Thursday it received its first complaint about Jerusalem Shawarma on Dec. 6.
More complaints were later made by 17 different groups who said they ate food from multiple Jerusalem Shawarma locations from Dec. 4 to 12.
“Please don’t judge us,” Jerusalem Shawarma co-owner Izzo AbuFarha said. “It was just an isolated [incident] in one of our locations, it didn’t happen all over the place.”
AbuFarha and his five brothers own the 10-restaurant chain, which opened in 2013.
He said they’ve has complied with AHS health inspectors, who recommended the restaurant wash common surfaces and the washrooms every 30 minutes.
AHS said they are currently investigating each complaint to verify the claims, with many coming from groups that fell ill after eating catered lunches.
All of the chain’s locations were inspected by AHS, but none of the restaurants were ordered to close.
“Anything that was of concern, like the ready-to-eat food products, have all been discarded — those things have been started from scratch again. There’s been full disinfections at each of the locations, so we’ve ensured that public safety is number one,” AHS Calgary Zone safe food program manager Sarah Nunn said.
“If there was any serious concerns, then absolutely those locations would’ve been closed.”
Following the news of the AHS investigation, AbuFarha said the restaurant has seen a steep decline in business, including multiple cancellations of catering orders.
He said the restaurant has also received racist comments. “This is something we’ve been getting on a daily basis, lots of bad comments, lots of messages, lots of threatening, lots of phone calls to our staff, to our employees,” AbuFarha said.
Faizan Butt, the lawyer representing Jerusalem Shawarma, said the investigation has been blown out of proportion.
According to AHS, the virus is common around this time of year and is extremely contagious. Symptoms of norovirus include severe stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea, and can last anywhere from 24 to 60 hours, AHS said.
The best way to prevent infection is to wash your hands often and wash fruits and vegetables before eating them.
“The biggest thing is it’s out there in the community, and it’s about prevention,” Nunn said. “It’s about making sure that we don’t pass this on to anybody else.”
Nunn said AHS takes every complaint seriously and recommends anybody with concerns to contact AHS or 811 with health questions.​
AbuFarha said his employees are taking AHS’ advice seriously, all in an effort to go on with business as usual.
“We’re seeking the support of our community, we’re seeking the support of Calgarians in making this business get back to normal,” he said.
With files from Global News’ Kaylen Small
Original article: LINK
#Outbreak #Norovirus #Food #AHS #JerusalemShawarma #Canada #Calgary
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A norovirus outbreak shut down an entire Colorado school district right before Thanksgiving

A Colorado school district has closed more than 40 schools after a highly contagious virus outbreak.
It’s the first time the Mesa County Valley School District 51 has had to close all schools due to illness, the district said Wednesday.
“We are taking this highly unusual action because this virus is extremely contagious and spreading quickly across our schools,”
Nursing Coordinator Tanya Marvin said in the statement.
More than a dozen schools in the state’s 14th largest district reported increased absences “due to illness and several incidences of vomiting in public areas of the schools,” according to the Mesa County Public Health Department.
A second, related virus has also been affecting students in recent weeks, the district said.
“The combination of the two has created an unprecedented spread of illness.”
“Onset of symptoms for both types of viruses, including vomiting, is incredibly fast. The second version also causes fever in several cases,” the district statement said.
The health department says it is working to identify the illness, which is “acting a lot like norovirus” and lasts between 12-24 hours.
Norovirus, sometimes called the “stomach bug,” is easily spread through direct contact, consuming contaminated food or water, or touching contaminated surfaces and then putting your hands in your mouth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The very young, older people, and those with other illnesses are most vulnerable to severe dehydration.
The closure includes all after-school activities, the district said, and schools will remained closed until after Thanksgiving break.
Mesa County Valley School District 51 is the largest school district between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Denver, Colorado, the district website says. It serves more than 22,000 students in 46 schools and programs, employing nearly 3,000 employees.
Tips on how to avoid the illness include thoroughly washing hands and staying away from people who are sick.
“When you have norovirus, the very dramatic symptom people have is often violent vomiting that hits you pretty suddenly,” said Amesh Adalja, MD, a spokesperson for the Infectious Diseases Society of America and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security in Baltimore, Maryland.
“You have nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and it usually lasts 24 to 48 hours,” he told Healthline. “It can be a pretty grueling 24 to 48 hours.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source reports the virus sickens millions of people each year. The very young, older people, and those with other illnesses are most vulnerable to severe dehydration.
Each year, as many as 71,000 people are hospitalized. Between 500 and 800 die.
Picture: Getty
“What’s very striking about norovirus is that it’s very highly infectious. And if you’re exposed to it, there’s a very high likelihood you could be infected by it, even if you’re in good health,” Adalja said.
Easy to get, hard to shakeExperts say that when someone is sick with norovirus, they have large amounts of the virus in them, although it only takes a little to make you sick.
“We know that people who have the virus shed it in very large numbers in their fecal material. We’re talking millions to billions of virus particles in a gram,” said Lee-Ann Jaykus, PhD, a professor in the department of food, bioprocessing, and nutrition sciences at North Carolina State University.
“It probably doesn’t take more than 100 particles to make you sick,” she told Healthline.
Jaykus says scientists know the virus is passed from person to person. That happens when an infected person doesn’t wash their hands after using the bathroom.
The surfaces they touch can become contaminated. If the infected person is a food handler, they can pass the virus onto your food.
They also know that when an infected person vomits, that surface will be contaminated.
But more recently, researchers learned that norovirus may also be transmitted in the air from the repeated vomiting.
“A lot of times this is what we call projectile vomiting, very forceful and severe, literally across the room,” Jaykus explained. “Some of that vomitus gets aerosolized, and it has norovirus in it.”
To study how this happens, Jaykus and a team of researchers actually built a vomiting machine to test how norovirus spreads. The machine simulated human vomiting.
The team used a surrogate virus, which wouldn’t make anybody sick. Then they measured the airborne virus particles.
The scientists publishedTrusted Source the findings of their study in the PLOS One journal in 2015.
“You can detect it. The numbers are not as high as in fecal material, but it’s there,” Jaykus added. “What happens is some of the virus gets aerosolized, people breathe it in. It hits the mucous membranes, goes into the stomach, and the infection process starts.”
And once it starts spreading through a community, the virus is hard to get rid of.
“This particular virus is extraordinarily resistant to the sanitizers and disinfectants that we commonly use at regulated concentrations and contact times,” Jaykus said.
“It’s also incredibly persistent. If I were to put norovirus on a surface in front of me right now, it would probably remain capable of causing infection for a month, maybe more,” she added.
What you can doJaykus notes there’s no norovirus vaccine yet, although some are being developed.
“The real way to protect yourself is to wash your hands a lot. If you see somebody vomiting, go the other way. And if you’re on a cruise ship, tell somebody,” she said.
The CDC Trusted Source has put together some tips to help you keep norovirus from spreading:
1) Practice good handwashing for at least 20 seconds. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer alone won’t do.
2) Wash your fruits and vegetables. Cook seafood thoroughly.If you’re sick, don’t cook or care for others for at least 2 to 3 days after you recover.
3) Clean contaminated surfaces first, then disinfect them. Use a chlorine bleach solution with a concentration of 1,000 to 5,000 ppm (5 to 25 tablespoons of household bleach [5.25 percent] per gallon of water) or other disinfectant registered as effective against norovirus by the Environmental Protection Agency.
4) Wash your laundry thoroughly.
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CDC – Food workers washed their hands in only 27% of activities in which they should have.

New research of the CDC reveals that food workers washed their hands in only 27% of the activities in which they should have.
Based on the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) recommendations when workers need to wash hands
  • Eating,
  • Drinking,
  • Using tobacco,
  • Coughing,
  • Sneezing,
  • Using tissue,
  • Preparing raw animal products,
  • Handling dirty equipment, and
  • Touching the body (such as scratching your nose).
CDC found that overall, workers engaged in about 9 activities an hour that should have involved handwashing with water and soap. Unfortunately, in most of the cases, they did not:
Other interesting find was that, workers were more likely to wash their hands at the right time when they were not wearing gloves than when they were.
The research was conducted by the Environmental Health Specialists Network (EHS-Net). EHS-Net is a federally funded collaboration of federal, state, and local environmental health specialists and epidemiologists.
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Customers WANT “cleanliness”

Consumers take online reviews seriously — particularly when it comes to reviews about the cleanliness of a business, according to a new Harris Poll conducted by Cintas Corp.
The survey revealed that 85% of respondents would not patronize businesses with negative online reviews about the cleanliness of its facilities. Restaurants (75%) ranked at the top of the list of businesses where cleanliness most greatly impacted buying habits.
“With the increased use of consumer review sites, consumers form a perception of a business long before they set foot in the door,” said Dave Mesko, senior director of marketing, Cintas Corporation. “This study shows that if your business is dirty and someone mentions that in an online review, it will have a negative impact on your bottom line.”
“85% of customers would not patronize businesses with negative online reviews about the cleanliness”
While restaurants and hotels were at the top of the list, respondents also listed grocery stores, convenience stores, retail stores, entertainment parks and gas stations as businesses that they would not patronize after reading negative online reviews regarding the cleanliness of their facilities.
“This study reaffirms that patrons put a premium on the cleanliness of a business,” Mesko added. “To stay competitive, organizations should put cleaning strategies in place to maintain their facilities at peak cleanliness levels no matter the time of day. This will help improve the opportunity for a positive guest experience — and online review.”
For the full article: link
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Foodborne Outbreaks caused by the employees

Central and Preventable Control (CDC) new study found that the spread of germs from the hands of food workers to food is an important cause of food-borne illness outbreaks in restaurants. It accounts for 89% of outbreaks in which food was contaminated by food workers.
Proper hand washing can reduce germs on workers’ hands and the spread of germs from hands to food and from food to other people.
89% of outbreaks in which food was contaminated is due to food workers hand hygiene.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends hand washing before making food and putting on gloves to make food. FDA advises that hands be washed after Eating, Drinking, Using tobacco, Coughing, Sneezing, Using tissue, Preparing raw animal products, Handling dirty equipment, and Touching the body (such as scratching your nose).
Hand washing may not always be enough to stop the spread of germs from hands to food.
The FDA recommends use of barriers such as gloves to stop the spread of germs. But research on hand washing and glove use in restaurants shows that these practices do not occur as often as they should.
To improve these practices, we must understand factors linked with these practices. CDC interviewed and watched food workers to collect data on these practices.
According to the CDC, 89% of cases of food-borne illnesses caused by food workers are due to inadequate hand washing practices…
Full text : Link
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Pיotograph by Henry Hargreaves for Fortune; Styling by Caitlin Levin
America’s food industry has a $55.5 billion safety problem.
In the last few months it’s been found in frozen veggies sold at grocery stores like Costco COST -3.08% , Safeway SWY 0.00% , and Trader Joe’s. Its detection in a manufacturing plant led to the recall of Starbucks’ SBUX -1.43% breakfast sandwiches. It’s killed four people who ate packaged salads made by Dole and sent 33 more to the hospital. This is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. We’re talking about listeria—it’s deadly and, to read the headlines, it would seem the bacteria is everywhere and unstoppable.
In September Fortune dove into the world of food-borne pathogens as we tried to understand what’s making 48 million Americans sick every year. Fortune has resurfaced this story in the wake of the recent string of listeria-related recalls as well as Chipotle’s CMG -1.46% food safety crisis, which has become an almost existential threat to the burrito chain. Is there an increasing number of contaminants in our food, or are we just getting better at detecting these outbreaks? Here’s what we found.
Allow us, just for a moment, to be completely—and irresponsibly—alarmist: We are in a battle with bacteria. And from the numbers, it might well appear that we are losing.
Each year an estimated 48 million Americans are stricken ill as the result of one food-borne pathogen or another—listeria, E. coli, salmonella, and even a number of stowaway viruses are among the culprits. But in many cases the victims don’t know they’ve been infected. For those who go to a doctor or the hospital, the collective bill is substantial. A 2015 study by Robert Scharff, an associate professor at Ohio State University, estimates the annual cost of medical treatment, lost productivity, and illness-related mortality at $55.5 billion. For lack of a good Latin name for the constellation of ailments that fall into the above category, we’ll call the pathology “getting sick from what you eat.” And the scariest part is, that’s about as precise as the medical explanation often is. “The route by which most of these individuals get ill is unknown,” says John Besser, the deputy chief of the Enteric Diseases Laboratory Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That’s not just a scary prospect for those of us who are consuming food these days (that’s you, dear reader), but also for those who are making and selling it. Food-borne illness is a giant, expensive challenge for companies big and small—and the surprise is, their exposure to the risk (and the liability when linked to an outbreak) is arguably bigger than ever. “Thirty years ago if you had a little problem, you were not going to get discovered,” says David Acheson, former associate commissioner for foods at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, who today runs a consulting firm. “Now the chances of getting caught are significant, and it can be the end of your company.”
Or a costly wound, at the very least. When the Grocery Manufacturers Association surveyed three dozen international companies in 2011, more than half reported being impacted by a food recall during the previous five years. Eighteen percent of those said the hit from the recall and lost sales was between $30 million and $99 million; 5% said the financial impact was $100 million or more. The long-term reputation damage to companies can have an even steeper price tag.
To help solve the problem, in mid-September the FDA released the first set of major rules it was instructed to create by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), passed long ago in 2011. But honestly, new regs alone won’t solve this problem. Here are four reasons the food-poisoning conundrum is so hard to solve.
1. Health officials can identify only a fraction of those who get food poisoning.
Pinpointing an outbreak of food-borne illness is largely a matter of luck and circumstance. It can take dramatic symptoms for people to visit a doctor, and even then, physicians seldom order a stool sample—the prime way to trace a pathogen to a patient. If a specific germ is found to be the cause, public health authorities may then interview the person to determine what he’s eaten (in the case of listeria, investigators might require a record of food consumption that goes back 28 days). And, well, people forget what they eat. Then epidemiologists have to take this indeterminate recollection of meals and snacks—something that might include hundreds of components—and isolate the source of the culpable microorganism.
None of this is easy. Most cases of food-borne illness are sporadic, meaning they cannot be traced to a specific “outbreak”—an event known to have caused illness in others. Even in the case of an outbreak, it’s woefully hard to identify those who fall ill. For example, out of every 29 people who get sick from a typical salmonella outbreak, the CDC estimates that just one will be formally diagnosed.
Given such long odds, it’s somewhat remarkable how many outbreaks have been isolated in recent years—particularly in cases in which foods and germs were linked together for the first time. For instance, since 2006 investigators have fingered a bacterial strain called E. coli O157:H7 (at one time widely thought to be found only in meats) in bags of baby spinach, in hazelnuts, and in cookie dough. They’ve identified botulism in pasteurized carrot juice and found salmonella in peanut butter, ground pepper, jalapeño peppers, Turkish pine nuts, and pistachios. They’ve discovered hepatitis A virus in pomegranate seeds; cyclospora in bagged salad mix; and Listeria monocytogenes in ice cream. (Read about Blue Bell’s recall crisis here.)

“I’m skeptical that these are new connections,” says Ben Chapman, associate professor of food safety at North Carolina State University, who runs a website called the Barfblog. “It’s stuff that’s always been there, and now we’re looking for it.” That would help explain why FDA-regulated food recalls have more than doubled over the past decade, to 565 last year, according to insurance company Swiss Re—with nearly half related to microbiological contamination. In interviews with more than 30 experts, nearly all said the rise in recalls was less an indicator of deteriorating food safety than it was of our improving capacity to connect the dots between foods and microbes.
2. Regulators have new tools. Industry doesn’t trust them.
Up until the 1990s, most outbreaks we found were in the same geographic location—the church picnic where everyone eats the same bad potato salad and calls in sick the next day. Then new technology enabled scientists to determine the various DNA fingerprints of food-borne bacteria, which were uploaded into a common database. Investigators were suddenly able to link disparate cases of illness by finding bacterial matches. “It revolutionized outbreak investigation,” says Linda Harris, a microbiologist in the department of food science and technology at the University of California at Davis.
Since then the tech has gotten faster and more accurate—a fact that has allowed for the creation of large databases of bacterial genome sequencing. The CDC is building its own library of pathogen genomes isolated from patients. The FDA is doing the same with microbes found in food and company production facilities, a program it calls GenomeTrakr.
Major food companies, meanwhile, commonly test for bacteria in their own food and factories. (Bacteria are everywhere: On each square centimeter of your skin there are potentially millions of the tiny organisms. Worry not—nearly all of them are harmless.) And when companies find any worrisome strains, they increasingly do genetic analyses of their own. It would make sense, certainly, for them to contribute their own data to GenomeTrakr—which is something the FDA strongly encourages. (The word “encourage” here is in the softest sense: Companies are really required to report only contaminations of products that could cause a public health issue.)
But many food manufacturers are wary of giving regulators any information they don’t have to. “There’s clearly a nervousness around it,” says Acheson. “If a company has got data that could incriminate them in an outbreak, they get reluctant to look for it. It’s a very fine line.”
The concern is twofold: First, these techniques are imperfect. Not all genomic sequences of linked food and patient pathogens will have exact matches. “There’s a range of relatedness,” says ­Carlota Medus, an epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health. “The new advancements are more specific,” says Elisabeth Hagen, a former undersecretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture who is now a senior adviser to Deloitte. “But there are reasonable questions about what constitutes a match and how the technology will be used to definitively identify the source of an outbreak.”
The second worry is that regulators will shoot first and ask questions later. Companies fear they will be implicated before the necessary epidemiology is done. “They could send a swat team into a plant, and the business is going to be disrupted significantly,” says Mike Robach, vice president of corporate food safety, quality, and regulatory affairs at ­Cargill. “We just want to make sure we have due process and are not falsely accused.”
One potential solution is VoluntaryNet, which is run by Michael Doyle at the University of Georgia’s Center for Food Safety. Currently Cargill and other companies anonymously submit bacteria samples that might cause food-borne illness to Doyle’s team, which genetically sequences them. If the university researchers discover a match with a genetic isolate from a patient in the CDC database, they send a report to all the food companies in the network, letting them know of a potential contamination link.
3. Our pantry is global. (So are the chances for contamination.)
Americans love strawberries—we annually consume about eight pounds of them per capita—and we want them year round. The berries we can’t get from U.S. growers we bring in from Mexico, mostly. Overall we import nearly 20% of our food—and each of these exporting countries has different food-safety standards and inspection regimes.
The global supply chain has not only given us a cornucopia of food choices; it has also cut costs. The downside is that it has made preventing food-borne contamination nearly impossible. By the time milk tainted with melamine produced in China was detected, it had already been exported to 47 countries by way of milk-containing products.
The more stops food takes before it enters the U.S., the more opportunities there are for contamination, says Bill Marler, an attorney and an oft-cited authority on food-borne illness. Companies now fret about so-called economic adulteration, in which suppliers in some cases add something to food that shouldn’t be there—as occurred with the melamine scandal in China, when the chemical was put in diluted milk to increase its protein content. This form of food fraud—which happens most prevalently in liquids like olive oil and in powders such as spices—costs the industry $10 billion to $15 billion a year. “I’m not sure we truly worried about this 20 years ago,” says Sara Mortimore, vice president of product safety, quality, and regulatory affairs at Land O’Lakes. And for companies, the stakes could get much higher: Additional FSMA rules anticipated later this year are expected to hold importers responsible for whatever they bring into the country.
4. Oh, yeah—and it’s our fault too.
Increasingly, consumers are rebelling against preservatives—fearing those additives intended to prevent food poisoning more than the sickness itself (see our special report, “The War on Big Food,” on Cargill’s Robach says a number of customers have asked the company to remove the potassium and sodium lactates and diacetates it puts in processed meat to inhibit listeria growth. “We have not taken it out because we feel there’s an added layer of protection that’s important,” he says.
A growing segment is also pressuring manufacturers to cut back on salt and sugar—both of which help prevent bacterial growth by reducing the amount of available water in food that the microbes can grow in. Then there’s freezing, which also boosts food safety. But today’s shoppers are turning away from frozen food because of a desire for fresh goods, which they equate with healthy.
Some food companies are experimenting with techniques like high-pressure processing, which squashes the bacteria on the surface. But it can impact quality. “You can’t do that with a tomato,” says Acheson. A similar concern is voiced over food irradiation, which is even more off-putting to many than sugar, salt, and preservatives.
Ironically, trying to eat more fruit and vegetables—especially raw—can be the riskiest thing of all. We eat them without performing what food-­industry vets call a “pathogen-reduction step.” Most of the rest of us call it cooking.
Is there a solution?
Pizza is perhaps the best example of why our regulatory structure is a challenge. “It’s very confusing,” says Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who visited Fortune in mid-September. “If it’s a plain pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella, crust, it’s the FDA. If it’s a slice of pepperoni, it’s mine. Sausage, it’s mine. Mushroom, it’s theirs.” Indeed, it is hard to conceive of a more haphazard regulatory regime than the one intended to protect Americans’ food. The USDA regulates meat, poultry, and processed egg products and has an agent in every processing plant in the U.S.  The FDA minds everything else but requires no testing of food from manufacturers. That’s not to suggest that testing is the obvious cure-all for our seemingly endemic food-safety predicament. “If you take a whole bunch of lettuce heads off a truck and test one out of 100, you still might not find a problem because it’s not likely to be spread evenly,” says North Carolina State’s Chapman. “We could have a really big sampling program and never find a pathogen.”
That’s why regulators—and companies—are focusing more on prevention. The new FSMA rules, indeed, mark a big regulatory shift: one that mandates companies take a more proactive approach to food safety rather than wait for an outbreak to trigger a frantic cleanup response. “Instead of the FDA having to show that firms are doing something wrong, firms have to show that they’re doing something right,” says Charles Breen, a former FDA district director who is now a food-safety consultant.
As for consumers (again, that’s you): Use a meat thermometer, wash your hands, don’t drink raw milk. Those in the know also suggest being especially wary of items like oysters, sushi, and sprouts. Bill Marler, for one, routinely chucks the bagged salad that his wife buys. “I will grab it out of the refrigerator and throw it away,” he says. What’s the safest thing to eat? That’s easy, he says. Scotch.
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FDA: Protect you and your loved ones from food poisoning.

1) Germs that cause food poisoning can survive in many places and spread around your kitchen.
2) Wash hands for 20 seconds with soap and water before, during, and after preparing food and before eating:
Wet your hands with warm or cold running water and apply soap. According to FDA, you should use plain soap and water—skip the antibacterial soap.
Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well. Be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Bacteria can hide out here too!
continue rubbing hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum “Happy Birthday” from beginning to end twice.
Rinse your hands well under running water.
Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.
3) Wash your utensils, cutting boards, and counter tops with hot, soapy water.
4) Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.
1) Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can spread germs to ready-to-eat foods—unless you keep them separate.
2) Use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
3) When grocery shopping, keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and their juices away from other foods.
4) Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from all other foods in the fridge. ​
1) Food is safely cooked when the internal temperature gets high enough to kill germs that can make you sick. The only way to tell if food is safely cooked is to use a food thermometer. You can’t tell if food is safely cooked by checking its color and texture.2) Use a food thermometer to ensure foods are cooked to a safe internal temperature. Check this chart for a detailed list of foods and temperatures.
1) Keep your refrigerator below 40°F and know when to throw food out.
2) Refrigerate perishable food within 2 hours. (If outdoor temperature is above 90°F, refrigerate within 1 hour.)
3) Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never thaw foods on the counter, because bacteria multiply quickly in the parts of the food that reach room temperature.​
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FDA : Employee Health and Personal Hygiene Handbook

What is effective handwashing?
It is the act of cleansing hands by applying soap and water, rubbing them together vigorously, rinsing them with clean water, and thoroughly drying them. This process gets rid of dirt and germs. Every handwashing stage is important and effectively contributes to soil removal and reduction of microorganisms that can cause illness.
Why is handwashing important?
Handwashing reduces the spread of pathogenic microorganisms that are transmitted through food. The hands of food employees can be colonized with microorganisms such as Staphylococcus aureus or contaminated with organisms from human fecal material, such as Norovirus, Shigella spp., hepatitis A virus, E. coli O157:H7, or Salmonella Typhi, or contaminated from raw animal foods, with E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella spp. These and other pathogenic microorganisms can get on the hands from a number of sources and then move from hands to food during preparation and service.
An infected food employee and/or food employees with unclean hands, and exposed portions of arms or fingernails, can contaminate food. If a consumer eats contaminated food, foodborne illness may result.
When should food employees wash their hands?
They should do this immediately after engaging in activities that contaminate the hands and:
  • When entering a food preparation area;
  • Before putting on clean, single-use gloves for working with food and between glove changes;
  • Before engaging in food preparation;
  • Before handling clean equipment and serving utensils;
  • When changing tasks and switching between handling raw foods and working with RTE foods;
  • After handling soiled dishes, equipment, or utensils;
  • After touching bare human body parts, for example, parts other than clean hands and clean, exposed portions of arms;
  • After using the toilet;
  • After coughing, sneezing, blowing the nose, using tobacco, eating, or drinking; and
  • After caring for or handling services animals or aquatic animals such as molluscan shellfish or crustacea in display tanks.
What handwashing steps do food employees need to follow?
Clean hands and exposed portions of arms, including surrogate prosthetic devices for hands and arms, for at least 20 seconds by the following method:
  1. Rinse under clean, warm running water;
  2. Apply soap and rub all surfaces of the hands and fingers together vigorously with friction for at least 10 to 15 seconds, giving particular attention to the area under the fingernails, between the fingers/fingertips, and surfaces of the hands, arms, and surrogate prosthetic devices;
  3. Rinse thoroughly with clean, warm running water; and
  4. Thoroughly dry the hands and exposed portions of arms with single-use paper toweling, a heated-air hand-drying device, or a clean, unused towel from a continuous towel system that supplies the user with a clean towel.
Avoid recontamination of hands and arms by using a clean barrier, such as a paper towel, when turning off hand sink faucets or touching the handle of a restroom door.
It is important to follow these steps to remove germs from hands and ensure hands are as clean as possible. Thorough handwashing with warm water, the recommended amount of soap as indicated by the manufacturer, and proper hand drying are essential to reduce the possibility of hands transferring microorganisms to food.
How important is the temperature of water used for handwashing?
Warm water is generally more comfortable than cold water and encourages handwashing for the recommended duration. The water temperature used in handwashing can also affect the solubility or emulsification of some soils. Warm water is more effective than cold water in removing fatty soils. An adequate flow of warm water will cause soap to lather and aid in flushing soil quickly from the hands. The 2005 FDA Food Code specifies a minimum handwashing water temperature of 38°C (100°F).
How important is properly drying your hands after handwashing?
Hand drying is a vital part of the handwashing process because thorough hand drying can provide an added reduction of microorganisms on the hands. The 2005 FDA Food Code lists three different effective methods. These include drying the hands with an air dryer and using a single-use towel or a clean, unused towel.
Can hand antiseptics (hand sanitizers) be used in place of adequate handwashing in food establishments?
No. Hand antiseptics should be used only in addition to proper handwashing.
What are some ways a food establishment can promote compliance with handwashing requirements?
Train food employees on:
  • When to wash hands;
  • How to wash hands; and
  • Where to wash hands.
Stress the importance of:
  • Following proper cleaning procedures;
  • Keeping hands and exposed portions of arms, including surrogate prosthetic devices for hands and arms, clean;
  • Keeping fingernails trimmed;
  • Washing hands only in designated handwashing sinks; and
  • Following the appropriate use of hand antiseptics.
Managers are responsible for:
  • Ensuring that food employees wash their hands, as required;
  • Providing accessible, properly maintained, designated handwashing sinks;
  • Making sure that handwashing sinks have clean, running warm water, soap and paper towels, or other approved means for drying;
  • Posting signage that notifies food employees of the handwashing requirement; and
  • Monitoring food employees to ensure proper handwashing and good hand hygiene protocol during the work shift.
Tips for promoting effective handwashing practices in food establishments:
  • Make food employees aware of media coverage on local and national foodborne outbreaks. This awareness reinforces the reporting of symptoms, illness, and good handwashing procedures.
  • Create opportunities to remind food employees each week about the importance of hand hygiene.
  • Emphasize handwashing at the beginning of a shift, after using the toilet, after handling raw meat, and between changes of gloves. This emphasis will help keep good hand hygiene at the forefront.
  • Use a “buddy” system so that fellow food employees can support each other.
  • Use training and incentive programs to motivate food employees to take ownership and practice good personal hygiene habits.
An FDA study published in 2004 found food establishments were frequently out of compliance with the Food Code requirements for proper and adequate handwashing. In the study, the percent of food establishments observed to be out of compliance with handwashing requirements ranged from 34% in hospitals to 73% in full-service establishments.
The following elements can impact handwashing compliance among food employees:
  • Make it a Priority: When management enforces handwashing compliance as a mandatory requirement, employees are more likely to follow the requirement.
  • Motivate: Provide motivation for handwashing, which has proven to have an impact on improving handwashing compliance.
  • Remove Deterrents: Conveniently located handwashing sinks have a huge impact on handwashing compliance. Studies have found that availability of handwashing sinks supplied with soap and running water has a big influence on compliance; however, materials and practices that cause irritation to the skin can decrease handwashing compliance. For example, excessive handwashing or use of harsh soaps can lead to skin irritation and subsequently decrease handwashing compliance.
  • Provide Positive Reinforcement: Rewards for compliance generally have a positive impact on improving handwashing compliance.
Should food employees with one hand or those with a surrogate prosthetic device for hands and arms follow these handwashing procedures?
Yes, this requirement for thorough handwashing is achievable through reasonable accommodation in accordance with the ADA. In order to achieve the intent of this requirement, devices are available that are attachable to a lavatory. These devices enable a one-handed food employee to generate.
the necessary friction to achieve the intent of this requirement.
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