African American Culinary Pioneers – Week 2

By Precious Simpson, Environmental Health Specialist 2

In Environmental Health, one of our main focuses is ensuring that food service facilities are maintaining proper temperatures for their time/temperature control for safety (TCS) foods. Being able to cool foods at the proper rate to the appropriate temperatures and cold holding TCS food at 41°F or below are both critical processes for preventing the growth of harmful pathogens in food that can cause an array of discomforts and illnesses. Below are two men that dedicated their time and efforts to guarantee that perishable foods would not spoil and last longer. 

John Stanard and Frederick McKinley Jones were two African American men that made significant improvements in refrigeration technology. In 1891, John Stanard received a patent for his enhancement to the refrigerator that includes features we see today on modern refrigeration units. His design included a manually filled ice chamber for cooling and strategically placed air ducts in areas that ensured cold air circulation throughout the unit.

In 1935, Frederick McKinley Jones invented a portable air-cooling unit for trucks and railroad cars transporting perishable foods. Today, the industry standard is to transport these TCS foods in refrigerated trucks, especially when traveling long distances. While he was also known for his work in mechanics and electronics, most of the patents he received during his life were for refrigeration technologies which we still use to this day to transport perishable foods that must be temperature controlled.

What would the food industry be without these men and their inventions and improvements? Follow us next week as we take a look at more African American culinary pioneers!

African American Culinary Pioneers – Week 1

By Precious Simpson, Environmental Health Specialist 2

In 1926, what started as a week to celebrate African American history, led to what we recognize in February as Black History Month! Throughout many decades there have been several people of color contributing to our everyday lives with inventions and innovative ideas and processes. George Washington Carver is one of the most notable with his contributions to food and growing nutrient rich crops. As an agricultural scientist, his main focus was soil and crop cultivating and conservation. Throughout his life he conducted groundbreaking work and came up with hundreds of different uses for peanuts, soybeans, and other legumes. His work also included a new method for crop rotation for soil that had been over utilized and stripped of nutrients necessary for crop growth. Those processes that he discovered and implemented are still used to this day to help farmers everywhere with technique and production. We invite you to follow us throughout February as we highlight more notable, pioneering people of color and their impact on the food industry.

Welcome to the Food Allergen Team, Sesame!

By Eboni Waters Environmental Health Specialist 4

As of January 1, 2023, sesame is now recognized as one of the major food allergens by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). The Big 8 Food Allergens are now the Big 9 Food Allergens! This also means “sesame will be subject to specific food allergen regulatory requirements.” Sesame seeds are often found whole on baked goods or in sauces/marinades, but they may also be ground into a paste as a food ingredient or used in cooking oils.

As a review, the major food allergens are:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Crustacean shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soybeans
  • Sesame

The Georgia Department of Public Healths Rules and Regulations for Food Service 511-6-.03(2)(l), states that the person in charge (PIC) is responsible for providing food safety training to their employees that includes allergen awareness.

Be sure to inform your food service employees and your customers if the foods you serve contain allergens!


A Roadmap for the Out of County Mobile Unit Authorization Process!

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By Idelia Ulmer, Environmental Health Specialist 4

Do you need a Roadmap for guidance through the new Out of County Mobile Unit Authorization Process?  Cobb & Douglas Public Health strongly recommends reviewing the following Step-by-Step Guidance for the “Out of County Mobile Unit Authorization Process, as issued by the Georgia Department of Public Health. Note: There may be some minor changes to this process once state data system changes are implemented to better facilitate the authorization process.

Your Authorization Review information should be submitted to the Environmental Health office in the county where your mobile unit’s base of operations is located – preferably by email, though in-person is also an option. If you need contact information for your Cobb County area inspector, submit your email request to Idelia Ulmer at Idelia.Ulmer@dph.ga.gov or call 770-438-5114. For Douglas County, submit your email request to  Patronya Brogdon at Patronya.Brogdon@dph.ga.gov or call 770-920-7311.

Out of County Mobile Unit Authorization Process – Guidance

To begin the process for Authorization, you must start with the county where your base of operations is located. If your base county is Cobb or Douglas. You must submit the following to Cobb or Douglas Environmental Health:

  1. A list of counties in which you intend to operate
  2. Toilet and Property Agreements for ALL locations you wish to vend in the listed counties

Note: If you do not have the Toilet/Property Agreements for your outside counties at the time of submitting your list, you can provide them directly to the outside county‘s Environmental Health office when requesting an Authorization to operate within their jurisdiction. 

The home/base county will review the submitted information (Toilet/Property Agreements) for completion.  The home/base county will then forward all authorization review information to the Environmental Health offices of the counties in which the mobile unit intends to operate.  This includes forwarding any Toilet/Property Agreements that are applicable to locations within those counties.  The authorization review information that should be forwarded to the outside counties’ Environmental Health offices includes the following:

  1. Copy of Base of Operation permit
  2. Copy of Mobile Food Service Unit(s) Permit(s)
  3. Verification that Annual Inspection Fees are paid
  4. Current approved Menu
  5. Pictures of mobile food service unit (inside & out)
  6. Equipment layouts
  7. Original Notarized Verification of Residency

As a recommendation, the mobile food service operator should follow up with the outside county’s Environmental Health office to verify they have received the information from their home/base county.  If they have received the information, the operator should submit their request for Authorization to the appropriate Environmental Health offices, and they will then begin to process your request.  They should now have your authorization review information and the application for Authorization. The outside county’s EH office will use the information received from your home/base county to verify the following:

  • Permits are in Good Standing
  • Review current/last inspection of base of operation and mobile unit
  • Where Permitted/Authorized there are no Public Health or Safety Concerns
  • Returns to Base of Operation as required

If the mobile unit complies with everything in the four bullet points above and has all other applicable local approvals from the outside county (e.g., Fire Marshal, Zoning, Business License, etc.), the outside county EH office will complete Page 2 of the Authorization Application and authorize the mobile unit to operate within that county’s jurisdiction.  

Click here for location and contact information for all county Environmental Health offices in Georgia.

The New Year Ushers in Changes to Food Truck Permitting!

By Andromada Murden, Environmental Health Specialist 2

The New Year is often met with many changes and if you operate a food truck, you’ll want to add the Georgia Department of Public Health’s food truck permitting changes to the list. Vending outside of your home county will look a little different in 2023 and we hope these changes will be a benefit to operators. Before we discuss these changes, let’s review the items that are still required.

First and foremost, when operating or planning to operate a food truck you will want to check your local county’s ordinances as some of them do not allow food trucks. Secondly, all food trucks are required to have a Base of Operation to ensure daily trips can be made to dump wastewater, refill water tanks, and restock supplies. Lastly, in the county in which your operation is based, you must obtain and maintain a permit from the local health department for your Base of Operation and your food truck.   

Now, let’s get into the good stuff! Previously, food trucks have been required to obtain a permit and routine inspection from each county they decided to vend in. Starting in 2023, food truck operators will only be required to obtain and maintain health department permits from the county where they are based. However, if an operator decides to vend outside that county, they are required to obtain an authorization to vend from the visiting county. To obtain authorization, operators must be in good standing in their base county, and they must provide several items, including a list of proposed vending locations, toilet and property agreements, and proof of compliance with any applicable local laws. Once authorization is granted operators will be able to vend in that visiting county.

We look forward to working together to make sure there is a smooth transition in the New Year. If you have specific questions about obtaining permit or authorizations, you can always contact your local Environmental Health office (Cobb: 770-435-7815 / Douglas: 770-920-7311).

Thinking of Buying a Food Truck? Don’t Forget about Your Base!

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By Patronya Brogdon, Environmental Health Specialist 4

Let’s touch base!  Or should I say let’s talk about your base…your base of operation, that is.  What initially sounds like an exciting new venture, can quickly become a daunting task that can lead to unexpected expenses.  Consider doing some research of your state/county regulations and requirements prior to making any investments since you will need approval from your local Environmental Health office prior to operating. Currently in Georgia, it is a requirement for all food trucks to have a base of operation.  Because the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Rules and Regulations for Food Service do not allow the disposal of wastewater or the preparation of food in unauthorized locations, i.e., a residential home, your base will serve as a permanent structure that will be used for this intent.  Consider your menu and speak with an Environmental Health Specialist prior to buying any equipment so you will know what is or isn’t necessary to operate successfully.  One thing to keep in mind when finding a location for your base is to do thorough research on the facility and/or property. 

So, you’ve found the perfect space! But wait, is it in a rural area? If so, you will need to find out if the facility is serviced by a septic system or public sewer.  To be quite honest, if your potential base of operation is in a rural area, there’s a strong possibility that the building will be serviced by a septic system.  If that’s the case, the septic system would have to be evaluated and approved by your local Environmental Health office prior to using the building as a base of operation.  In most circumstances, septic systems are not ideal for food service if they were not initially designed for that type of us.  Restaurants use a significant amount of water each day and can generate wastewater that’s laden with fats, oils, and grease that can lead to the rapid failure of an improperly designed septic system.  Your local Environmental Health office will have a record of most facilities that are served by septic systems, which makes them a valuable resource when researching possible locations for your base.  Skipping these steps can lead to indefinite delays or having to cease operating altogether due to leasing facilities on septic without prior knowledge of the septic system’s limitations.   Who knew working with your local Environmental Health office could potentially save you money? Remember we are not just here to regulate; we are here to help guide you through the process of running a safe and successful business.  So, keep us in the loop!

Slide into Safe Washing Practices!

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By Megan Fernandez, Environmental Health Specialist 1

When we think about fruits and vegetables, we often think of all the ways we benefit from them. They give our bodies nutrients protecting us from heart disease and stroke, and they can play an important role in effective weight management (CDC Jan. 2022).  Although raw fruits and vegetables are good for us, they can be harmful if not properly washed.  Sometimes, raw fruits and vegetables contain harmful bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria that cause foodborne illness (CDC Jan. 2022). Depending on the type of foodborne illness, symptoms may include an upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.

When picking out produce, ensure that it is not damaged, molded, or bruised. Before washing produce, make sure that your hands have been washed and that any surfaces involved in washing or preparing produce have been cleaned and sanitized. Then, check the produce for any hidden pests and remove any foreign debris or leaves. Next, submerge the produce in a sink filled with cold water. While soaking, agitate the produce by stirring, which will help remove additional surface soil. Remove produce from the wash water, transfer it into a colander, and rinse thoroughly. Lastly, drain all excess water from the produce, refrigerate within two hours of cutting or peeling, and chill them at 40°F or colder in a clean container (CDC Jan. 2022). It is important not to use soap, disinfectants, or other chemical cleaners when washing your produce.

Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of our diets, so it is imperative we practice safe produce washing in order to protect ourselves, our families, and our customers. There are certain groups that are more susceptible to possible germs on unwashed produce that include the elderly, children under 5 years old, and immunocompromised individuals. It is a good idea that facilities that serve a more susceptible population have washing tips hanging near vegetable prep sinks as a friendly reminder.

For more tips and information on fruit and vegetable safety, visit https://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/communication/steps-healthy-fruits-veggies.html

ServSafe Class Coming In December!

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Would you like to become a certified food safety manager (CFSM)? Is it time to renew your existing CFSM certification? If so, a few spots remain for our December 5-6, 2022 ServSafe class! This 2-day course will be presented at the Marietta Public Health Center – Building B located at 1738 County Service Parkway, Marietta, GA 30008 in the 2nd Floor Meeting Room.

Registration has been extended to November 18, 2022. Space is limited so secure your spot today!

Click here for the registration form.

For more information call the Cobb Office, 770-435-7815 or Eboni Waters, ServSafe Training Coordinator, 678-385-5070

Hope to see you there!

Cool It Down!

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By Precious Simpson, Environmntal Health Specialist 2

Sometimes an issue with the cold holding of previously cooked time and temperature control for safety (TCS) food may start with the method used for cooling the food before placing it in cold holding. The process for cooling hot food items begins when its temperature drops to 135°F, and from there, the food worker has 2 hours to get the food down to 70°F. Once that’s accomplished, you then have 4 hours to drop the temperature from 70°F to 41°F. Listed below are some approved methods for cooling foods effectively that can also be used in conjunction with other methods mentioned at the end of this post to achieve proper cooling within the time frames noted above.

Smaller Portions: When cooling food with thick consistencies such as chunky soups, thick cuts of meat, rice, and pasta, it is best to separate these items into smaller portions. Separating these items into smaller portions and smaller pans can reduce the time they are in the danger zone and will allow the cooling process to happen more rapidly, especially when coupled with placing them under refrigeration.

Ice Bath: This method involves placing food in a shallow pan and then placing it in another pan containing ice wide enough and deep enough to allow the ice to encompass the food product. The food should be periodically stirred to achieve uniform cooling. You can also place the food item in a food grade bag and cover it with ice until it has reached 41°F.

Under Refrigeration: Food service establishments can also place food that needs to be cooled under refrigeration at 41°F. The food should either be pre-portioned or spread out evenly in a shallow pan, and left uncovered, so long as there is no room for contamination from above. If the food must be covered, cover it loosely so that heat can escape. Stirring food while under refrigeration is a great step to take to ensure the it’s cooling uniformly.

Ice As a Cooling Agent: Add ice as a substitute for water that would normally be added to the food item. This method may not be the most desirable, but it is another option to achieve rapid cooling. This may work best with soups or rice and pastas where seasonings and the most flavorful ingredients are added later in the cooking process.

Other methods for rapid cooling include using an ice wand, placing the food in the freezer (it is recommended to use a timer when doing this), and using a blast chiller. All of these methods can be used alone or in conjunction with the cooling methods detailed above. The goal is to reduce the time TCS foods spend in the danger zone and limit the growth of harmful bacteria that could be present in our food. 

Scary Good Habits for Winter Pest Prevention!

By Ikhaeer Howard, Environmental Health Specialist 2

The holidays are rolling on in and the chilly weather has arrived. Guess what that means? The creepy crawlers are looking for a warm place to stay! We understand that infestations are a costly experience so here are some preventative tips you can implement in your establishment before Halloween ends.

Tip 1: Seal those cracks.

Yes, all of the cracks! From the windows to that pesky hole in the wall, the cove base falling apart, and that ray of sunshine peeking through the bottom of your backdoor. Little critters are looking for dark and warm places to get cozy and any small opening in your establishment is an invitation to come inside.

Tip 2: Establish a cleaning schedule.

Professional pest control is a great preventative measure but remember that your daily habits will make their job easier. While in-between pest control visits, make sure you are cleaning all your surfaces of any debris that may have been left behind. From splashes on the wall, liquids pooled in the trash can, trash at the backdoor and around the dumpster, or the most common occurrence… grill exhaust hood grease buildup. Leave nothing behind to make the pests want to stick around!

Tip 3: Know the Signs.

Before an infestation occurs, there are many signs to alert the establishment. Pests will “drop” clues like Scooby Doo so make sure you are paying attention for traces of feces, scurrying noises in the ceiling, and gnaw marks on boxes.

There’s a famous quote from Benjamin Franklin that says, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Start your good habits today and set your establishment up for inspection success!

RELATED: See Food Service Inspection Violation #18: Pest and Animal Control