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Putnam: Learning about food safety

Longview News-Journal - 9/3/2017

September is National Food Safety Month (NFSM) and ServSafe is excited to be celebrating the 23rd year of NFSM. This year's theme focuses on "The Culture of Food Safety."

As a focal point within the restaurant industry, food safety is now synonymous with an operation's reputation. Celebrate with us as we explore how to create a culture of food safety within your operation.

National Food Safety Month was created in 1994 to heighten the awareness of food safety education. Each year, we feature a new theme and create free training activities and posters for the restaurant and food service industry to help reinforce proper food safety practices and procedures.

The first week is called "What is Food Safety?" I am sure we all think we are safe when it comes to food, but are you? To be safe at home and for those who work in the food industry, you should always wash your hands, wash your fruit and produce, clean your area, use individual cutting boards for varying items and always cook your food to the correct temperature.

The second week focuses on "hand washing." We should thoroughly wash our hands for at least 20 seconds. A good rule of thumb is to sing the ABC's or "Happy Birthday" twice.

Depending on the location where we are washing our hands, we should start by dispensing the paper towel. Turn on the water, wet hands, apply soap and wash all over our hands. Remember "all over" means between fingers, on the tops of our hands, wrists and under our nails. Rinse your hands well and dry with the paper towel. You then save the towel to turn off the water and to open the door.

Of course, each facility is different so just remember not to touch anything after washing your hands. Always wash your hands prior to eating or preparing food for others.

The third week is called "The Role of Food Safety Training." The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and ServSafe say training employees correctly is critical to the success of a restaurant. Not all restaurant employees are trained on the same things. Some may be trained on menu items and greeting customers while others may focus on banquet service. One area where all employees need training is food safety. This will help keep guests safe.

The fourth week is called "Time and Temperature Control." The foundation and ServSafe recommend taking temperatures of food. The only way to reduce pathogens in food to safe levels is to cook the food to its correct minimum internal cooking temperature. The temperature is different for each food item. Once reached, you must hold the food at this temperature for a specific amount of time.

The minimum temperature for poultry, stuffing made with fish meat or poultry and stuffed meat is 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds minimum. For all ground meats, injected meat, mechanically tenderized meat, ratites, ground seafood, shell eggs hot held for service should be cooked at 155 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 16 seconds. Seafood, steaks/chops, commercially raised game, shell eggs served immediately should be cooked at 145 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 15 seconds. Roasts of pork, beef, veal and lamb should be cooked at 145 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 4 minutes. Fruit, vegetables, grains and legumes that are hot held for service should be cooked at 135 degrees Fahrenheit for no minimum time.

As we all need to be cautious when preparing foods at all times, September is a good month to start thinking about how we can help with food safety.

If you are interested in your children or grandchildren learning food safety, please have them join 4-H. Not only will they learn basic life skills, but they also have the opportunity to be involved in activities that help them to learn food safety. Trevor King is our 4-H agent and he is holding a kick off event from 6 to 8 p.m.Sept. 12 at Synergy Park in Kilgore. Please join us as this will be a fun event.

- Tami Putnam is a Texas A&M AgriLife extension agent for Gregg County.

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