Why Food Handlers Permits Are Critical For Health Safety
The health safety of America’s restaurant and dining industry depends on strict adherence to proper food handling procedures. Established and overseen by state agencies, food handling regulations help promote safe and proper handling and preparation of foods offered in restaurants and dining establishments around the country. Every state has their own regulations, but in general, every food establishment is required to make sure all staff handling or preparing food have received the proper training and been issued a food handlers permit. A food handlers permit validates and authenticates the level of training and knowledge a person has regarding proper procedures, which is critical for health safety.
The topics covered by the food handlers permit training and testing are directly related to important health and safety measures. Each topic thoroughly covers what to do and what not to do to ensure compliance. Many jurisdictions offer free online training and testing for nominal fees, though fees and training options vary from state to state.
Health Safety Concerns in Improper Food Handling
There are a myriad of different health concerns when it comes to food preparation and handling. Ranging from spoiled foods that may upset stomachs or result in a sub par palate to widespread outbreaks of deadly foodborne illness, food handlers are the first line of defense in preventing these issues. Some of the most common health safety concerns are:
E. coli is a foodborne illness that can not only cause diarrhea, but also more severe symptoms such as urinary tract infections and pneumonia. It is often transmitted through contaminated water or food.
Salmonella is another foodborne illness that can be contracted from improperly handled food. This infection results in diarrhea, fever and abdominal cramping within 12 and 72 hours after ingesting the contaminated food. The severity of symptoms will vary based on the person and on the infection, but it can lead to hospitalization and/or death if not treated properly.
The norovirus is an extremely contagious stomach virus that can have widespread effects if a food or preparation area becomes contaminated. Symptoms include severe stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea, which is sometimes so severe that hospitalization is required. It is estimated that 70 percent of norovirus cases are caused by outbreaks from contaminated food. This virus has been so rampant in recent years that authorities enacted a widespread ban on working in food establishments for the days immediately following having norovirus symptoms.
How Food Handlers Permits Help Prevent Health Crises
Food handlers permits require broad training for managers and food handlers. They cover a wide range of topics aimed at reducing the risk of improper handling and bacteria outbreaks. Some of the topics that directly relate to reducing potential outbreaks are:
Personal and Professional Hygiene and Sanitation
Food handlers are taught to wash their hands often, including after using the bathroom, as well as when switching between types of food. Using sanitary procedures to clean work surfaces with anti-bacterial products after use, as well as washing hands and clothing, is an important step in the overall reduction of risk.
Proper Setup of Work Areas
Specific systems and structures help reduce the risk of health crises by mitigating the potential for cross-contamination of different foods. For example, food handler training teaches that setting up separated and clearly marked work areas for handling raw meats will keep the potential bacteria far from raw produce, which will not be cooked and therefore has a greater chance of spreading illness.
Proper Food Management and Storage
Food handler training teaches proper food storage refrigeration and freezing temperatures to further reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Permits also require knowledge of proper storage methods, such as keeping raw meats on lower shelves to remove the risk of juices dripping on to prepared or ready-to-eat foods that should be kept on the top shelves in refrigerators.
Safe Cooking Temperatures
All meats, poultry and fish have required internal temperatures in order to be considered thoroughly cooked and safe for consumption. Failure to reach these temperatures greatly increases the risk of spreading foodborne illness as bacteria will not have been effectively killed through cooking. Food handler permit training teaches the appropriate temperatures for every type of food.
Ultimately, the knowledge gained from food handlers permit training, as well as the certification of the knowledge through testing and awarding of the permit, helps control and reduce the risk of health safety concerns in food establishments. By ensuring that food handlers have the proper training and certification to safely manage foods, everyone benefits from a healthier and safer environment.