Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Summer is right around the corner, even though it doesn’t feel like it at the moment with the rainy weather in Colorado. With summer, come outdoor events and festivals in Jefferson County.

Environmental Health Specialists will be out most weekends inspecting food vendors at these fun activities. Food preparation during outdoor events are of particular concern due to fluctuation in temperatures both with the weather and food storage and also because of the conditions in which vendors work.

One of the most important tools used in any food inspection, indoors or out, is a food thermometer. Whether you are preparing food at home, in a restaurant or in a park under a tent, making sure food is stored and served at the proper temperature is important.

Not only do inspectors use a thermometer, but it’s a must have for anyone preparing food. A food thermometer is the only way to make sure cooked food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature, consequently preventing foodborne illness. They also can be used to make sure food is keep cold or hot enough after it has been cooked.

Thermometers take the guesswork out of cooking and grilling. No more dried up chicken, or burned hamburgers.

If you are thinking of purchasing a food thermometer remember to look for an instant read, stem type thermometer that reads from 0° to 220° F so you can use it for cold or hot food.

If you see us out at your neighborhood festival or event, say hello, we’ll be the ones with a thermometer and a clip board.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Getting to Know and Envionmental Specialist...

Last week I attended a regional food safety conference here in Colorado. Many speakers gave updates on the latest foodborne illness news. Since the main purpose of inspecting food service operations is to reduce and control foodborne illnesses, keeping up on this news keeps us sharp.

I often get the question: Why are we hearing so much about people getting sick from food these days? Isn’t food supposed to be good for us? Seems it wasn’t like this 20-30 years ago. Truth is things have been changing.

Back in the day, food was produced close to where people lived. Many people shopped daily, and prepared and ate their food at home. Eating in restaurants was saved for special occasions.

There have also been major changes in how food is processed, where it comes from, better methods of finding bacteria and viruses in food, and improved regulations of the food industry.The majority of our food supply in the United States comes from all over the world, not just the local farmer down the road. Next time you shop, look at a label on a package of ground beef. It may come from not one but 3 different countries.

Better tests have been developed and faster detection methods have been developed
that help public health organizations, find new food pathogens.

Restaurant and other food industry regulations have been improved over the years as science has been better able to prove what causes foodborne illness and how to control and prevent it.

Every year, there are 76 million cases of foodborne illness reported in the United States with 5,000 deaths. This costs our country $7-8 billion dollars a year due to ill people, losses to food producers, and affects on the national economy. Much of this could be prevented with proper food handling and preparation techniques.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Getting to Know an Environmental Health Specialist...

Speaking of handwashing … we were weren’t we? Handwashing is one of the most important thing food handlers can do to prevent the spread of illness. Employees washing their hands, handwashing sinks and handwashing supplies are big items we inspectors look at during a restaurant inspection.

When you think about it, we touch almost everything with our hands. Just think about what your hands touch on your way to work for example; the dog, the back door, the stair railing, the car door handle, the steering wheel, the back door to the office and your keyboard. Who else has touched all those things?! Even if you left the house with clean hands, they aren’t clean any more.

Handwashing in a food service setting is important because some diseases are spread when disease-causing microorganisms enter the body and cause foodborne illness. Good handwashing with warm, soapy water prevents these organisms transferring from hands to food.

Our food safety classes teach good handwashing technique to food handlers in Jefferson County Colorado. To find out more about these food safety classes visit our web site.