One Little Container Can Lead to a Big Problem

By Casey Saenz, Environmental Health Specialist 3

On a recent routine inspection, I entered a restaurant at a time when I was able to observe the employees prepping food for the lunch rush.  The employees were busy at their stations: some were chopping vegetables, others were preparing raw meats, some were washing dishes, and so on.  I noticed that one employee at the prep station took out a container of raw seed sprouts and left it on the counter.  In the world of food safety, sprouts are considered a “red flag”.  In other words, that is one of many foods that if kept in the temperature danger zone [between 41 and 135°F], can lead to a very scary– and costly–problem.  After about 10 more minutes, I observed that little container of sprouts still out on the counter and I asked that employee why they were not being kept cold.  That employee said that they were kept out of the cooler during rushes and then put back once things slowed down. [Their lunch rush is about 3 hours.]  I quickly informed the employee that sprouts must be kept at 41°F and below and that included the lunch and dinner rush times as well.  The sprouts were quickly put back in the cooler.  After I finished the inspection and began to type the results on my laptop, I went back into the kitchen to retrieve my notepad.  When I went back to that same area, SURPRISE!  That little container of sprouts was back out on the counter.  Their temperature was reported at 57°F!  At that point, this was no longer a matter of simply educating an employee, this had now become a 9-point temperature violation and the sprouts were thrown away.

This little container of sprouts demonstrated a couple of key problems in this kitchen, one of which was obviously the temperature violation.  Another problem is a lack of managerial control and training by the PIC (person-in-charge).

A person-in-charge, whether they know it or not, has quite a big responsibility when it comes to protecting the public and a big one is training and oversight. That little container of sprouts, could have easily made many people sick– even hospitalized.

For more information on outbreaks caused by seed sprouts, click on the following link:


No Runs Here: Keeping It Safe on Game Day

After Thanksgiving, the day that Americans eat the most food is Super Bowl Sunday.  Please remember to keep your food safe before, during, and after the fun to reduce the possibility of foodborne illness.  CDC emphasizes adhering to the following rules:

  1. Keep it clean
  2. Cook it well
  3. Keep it safe
  4. Watch the time
  5. Avoid mix-ups
  6. Store and reheat leftovers the right way

Find out more here.

What Killed the Aztecs: A New Suspect Identified!


By Marissa Williams, MPH, Environmental Health Specialist

For centuries, the uncertainty behind what happened to the Aztecs has been an enigma, an expanse of mystery and wonder; not only to historians and anthropologists, but also to countless people throughout modern civilization. What caused the population’s massive and abrupt decline? While it has long been suspected that an epidemic of sorts was to blame, recent scientific discoveries of DNA extraction and analysis have finally provided a well-founded explanation – Salmonella enterica. These findings emphasize the invaluable role of public health in ensuring safe food, safe water, and healthy communities. The implications of the absence of public health can now be told in the story of the Aztecs.

For more information on this topic, see the following article from The Guardian: “500 years later, scientists discover what probably killed the Aztecs”


Top Organisms that Cause Foodborne Illness

Bacteria, viruses, and parasites are attributed with causing about 48 million foodborne illnesses in the United States each year.  According to the CDC, the top 5 biological organisms that cause the most foodborne illnesses in the United States are Norovirus, non-typhoidal Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, Campylobacter and Staphylococcus aureus (often referred to as Staph).  However, the “Big Six” foodborne illnesses required to be reported to the health authority by the persons in charge of food service establishments if found among food workers are Norovirus, Escherichia coli, Hepatitis A, Shigella, Salmonella typhi, and nontyphoidal Salmonella.  You may wonder why these two lists differ.  Although both lists are important, our food service regulations require the “Big Six” to be reported to the health authority due to the fact that it only takes a few organisms or viral particles to cause illness.  For instance, it takes 10 or fewer Hepatitis A viral particles to cause illness, yet a sick food worker may shed about 100 million of those viral particles in one gram of feces upon a trip to the restroom.  Hence, ensuring effective handwashing is of utmost importance in all cases.

For a list of foodborne germs from A-Z , go to .

Holiday Foods and Treats Fun!

As we celebrate the holidays, let’s test our seek-and-find skills with a hunt for some traditional holiday foods and treats.  This word search puzzle submitted by our MPH intern, Danielle Pierre, may be printed out or completed on your computer using the highlighter function of your PDF reader.  Either way, enjoy—and we hope you have some delicious treats during your safe and happy holidays!

Direct link to puzzle:

Inspector Impersonation Alert !

Recently, our office was made aware of a couple of facilities in our district that had been contacted/visited by someone claiming to be a health inspector—yet neither actually was.   This time of year is especially susceptible to such activity.  Thus, this is a reminder to operators of the need to review– with staff– acceptable inspection protocol and areas of food defense and personal safety that should be in place.

To assist you with training and preparation in this area, please view our Food Safety Partnership Panel #3 video on Food Defense located on our website and prepare a plan for your facility using the FDA’s A.L.E.R.T. guidance document at

Wishing you a holiday season that is safe in every way!

~ Karen Gulley, Food Program Manager

Along with the Cobb & Douglas Food Service Inspection Team



New Food Safety Partnership Panel: Safe Food Sources!

This time of year, quite a few restaurant menus begin to include special desserts, meats, drinks, etc. that are not usually offered in their facility.  Those foods need to be from an approved source–just as during other times of the year.  To help clarify this topic, we are announcing the 13th episode of our Food Safety Partnership Panel video entitled  Safe Food Sources , which emphasizes the need to be on alert for any unauthorized meat surfacing, such as that from illegal back woods slaughter 

Each of our Partnership Panels (covering a variety of topics) is available on the Environmental Health Food Service page of our website at and run approximately 30 minutes in length.  These can be used for review and training as applicable. 

Enjoy a Happy and Safe Holiday Season–and always think Food Safety!