Food Safety

After a long weekend at The True Cost of American Food Conference, I recently arrived on an early Monday morning to a dimly lit conference room at the Department of Public Health, which is housed in what used to be a Masonic Temple. Though I had entered under the watch of Charity, Fortitude and Truth (see: Masonic Temple), I was expecting a day of Prevention, Accountability and Obsolescence. I was signed up for a June session of Manager’s Food Safety Certification Class & Exam, but was hoping to sit in on the April session to get through it sooner. Luckily, there were enough no-shows (really, people? you spent the time and money signing up! why not show up?) that I could learn and test that day.

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I was there to comply with California Law, which states that every retail food facility must ensure that:

  1. At least one(1) employee be certified in food safety by passing an approved Food Safety Certification examination
  2. All employees involved in the preparation, storage or service of food in a food facility must obtain a food handler card

I had taken #2 a few months ago, so all that was left was #1. Even though I don’t have a retail food facility yet, I know it’s super important to share with customers (current and future) that I have the proper certifications to be preparing food for them.

There is a ton of detail that goes into preparing food, and while you’d think I would walk away from a certification class with more confidence that our food industry is highly regulated and assessed, and therefore our food is prepared appropriately, I instead walked away totally scared. Think of the number of food establishments you purchase food from on a weekly basis. Now think of the number of ingredients in each of those dishes/items you purchase. Now think of the number of times each of those ingredients changes hands before it gets to your food establishment. Now think of the number of surfaces, boxes, containers, or utensils that ingredient may have touched in its long life before it got turned into your food. Those hands and surfaces each contain opportunities for your food to get contaminated. Sigh. And I haven’t even mentioned temperature…

So it’s scary. I am personally concerned about the lack of guidance (in the class) around produce temperatures and how long cut produce can sit at room temperature or remain fresh in the refrigerator. We were tested on general guidelines, but I know it’s up to me to test scenarios as I build Nibble, and document my procedures. I actually love this behind-the-scenes operations of taking diligent care of those ingredients that will be in each Nibble snack, so I find this sort of challenge both interesting and satisfying. In the meantime, I’ve been a bit more careful about which food establishments I frequent since I took the class… because you just never know.

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