Food Safety Training Helps Restaurants Serve Safe Food

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When you go out to eat, you should expect that the food you order will be safe to consume. The workers who handle your food should be knowledgeable of safe food handling practices that will reduce your risk of developing a food-borne illness.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there are six foodborne illnesses that are highly contagious. They are Shigella, Salmonella Typhi, Nontyphoidal Salmonella, Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, also known as E. Coli, Hepatitis A, and Norovirus.

Foodborne illnesses can lead to symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, fever, nausea, abdominal cramps and in the case of Hepatitis A, jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes. Not only can foodborne illnesses make you sick, they can be deadly for persons with compromised or weak immune systems, including older adults, young children and persons with certain medical conditions.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year in the United States. That is why it is important for anyone who prepares and serves food to use safe food handling practices, including washing hands before handling food, storing food at correct temperatures, avoiding cross-contamination and cooking food to high enough temperatures to kill harmful pathogens that can cause foodborne illness.

If you eat out regularly, pay attention to how your food is handled. For example, no employee should handle ready-to-eat food with bare hands. Ready-to-eat food is food that will receive no further cooking. Gloves, deli sheets, spatulas or tongs should be used to serve ready-to-eat items.

Food service employees should wash their hands after using the restroom. If you are in a restaurant restroom and observe that an employee does not wash his or her hands, report the incident to the manager. An employee who handles money should wash his or her hands before preparing food.

Knowing how to handle food safely requires training and retraining due to changes in science and emerging foodborne illnesses. In fact, the employee who is in charge of operations when a restaurant is being inspected must be a Certified Food Safety Manager or the establishment loses two points on the inspection score.

Cooperative Extension provides food safety manager certification training. Extension Family and Consumer Sciences Agents in various counties offer one of two certification options for those working in the food service industry.

Safe Plates is a food safety manager’s certification training developed at N.C. State University and ServSafe is a training program developed by the National Restaurant Association. Both programs teach safe food handling and those who achieve a passing score on the exams become Certified Food Safety Managers. In Catawba County, Cooperative Extension partners with Environmental Health Specialists to offer ServSafe training.

Contact our office to learn more about the next scheduled ServSafe training course held at the Catawba County Cooperative Extension Center. This two-day training teaches the essentials of safe food handling. There is an independent study option that allows a student to study independently and take the exam on the second day.

The fee for the course is $90 and covers the textbook, materials and refreshments. The fee is $50 for persons who already have a revised 6th edition book and for those who need to recertify or retest without taking the class. Registration forms are available at the Cooperative Extension office or online at The class is limited to 25 participants. For more information, call 828-465-8240 or email