Don’t Forget To Date Mark Your Frozen Prepared TCS Foods!

For quite some time, we have emphasized the importance of date marking ready-to-eat TCS* foods that are being held more than 24-hours after preparation in order to minimize the possibility for the growth of Listeria–a pathogenic bacteria that is capable of growing at refrigerated temperatures.   [The maximum hold time for these date marked foods can be no longer than 7 days from the preparation date of the oldest prepared TCS food used as an ingredient.]  This same requirement also applies to the opening of commercially prepared TCS foods, which can’t be consumed beyond their expiration date or a 7 day hold time—whichever comes first.  One often overlooked scenario is the proper date marking of prepared foods that are frozen for later use.  Freezing food may stop the growth of Listeria, but that’s not enough to kill it!

Freezing prepared TCS foods will stop the 7 day clock: however, the initial preparation and holding of the food has to be taken into account.  The table shown above gives an example of how such date marking should be implemented.  In this case, chicken was cooked and cooled, the morning of Day One and is date marked with the Date Prepared/Opened (October 1).   After being refrigerated for 2 days, it was then placed in the freezer the morning of Day Three and marked with that date as the Date Frozen (October 3).  The day that the prepared TCS food was removed from the freezer to thaw  is noted as the Pull Date (October 10) and the clock starts ticking again.

The time the prepared TCS food was held before freezing at 41°F or less (in this case two days, October 1 and 2) is subtracted from the 7 day total, which allows us to determine the Discard Date.  In this example, the Day Seven discard date marked is October 14.  Thus, the chicken must be consumed or discarded by the end of the day on October 14.

Click here for a date marking label template that can be used for tracking TCS food that is frozen after preparation. 

*Time and temperature control for safety

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Food Safety Videos Available!

Over the past few years, Cobb & Douglas Public Health has hosted several Food Safety Partnership Panels composed of four participants representing the food service industry, public health, and consumers.  Each video is about 30 minutes in length, highlights an area needing emphasis at the time of the recording, is good for training, and is available at www.cobbanddouglaspublichealth.com.

This time of year, we like to emphasize the importance of having a safe food source.  Partnership Panel #13– entitled Safe Food Source–reminds the viewer of questions operators should ask of their food suppliers– along with red flags to keep in mind–when deciding whether a food source is acceptable for a food service establishment to use or is safe to use as a consumer.  The panel also takes a look at the illegal slaughter of animals for meat–which is a more frequent occurrence as we get closer to the holidays, and much more.  Check out this video along with the various other topics available on our website.

Food Safety Education Month Is Here!

A message from Food Program Manager Karen Gulley

Greetings during Food Safety Education Month!

During the month of September, we will be sharing information regarding new regulatory requirements and expectations in Georgia, along with reminders of basic food safety principles. A new resource entitled Food Safety Ninja will help with compliance in these areas. We give shout-outs to the Lake County General Health District (Ohio) for helping to make current food safety principles understandable in a fun and informative way.

Available in English, Spanish and Chinese, this project– which was funded by an FDA grant–uses short videos, narratives and quizzes, to explore proper date-marking (even when you’re freezing ready-to-eat foods), hand washing, chemicals, employee illness, cold and hot holding, reheating, and cooling. The site houses a wealth of information for anyone interested in food safety, especially food safety operators seeking tools for staff training.

Remember to always think food safety–and Happy Food Safety Education Month!

Protect Yourself from Hepatitis A!

The Georgia Department of Public Health continues to encourage food service workers to get vaccinated against hepatitis A.  Hepatitis A (HAV) is very contagious and about 70% of the cases that have been identified in Georgia over the past year were hospitalized.  This alert is especially important to those in our health district since more than half of the identified cases were in north and northwest Georgia.

The best way to protect yourself– and others–is to get vaccinated and practice good personal hygiene.  Cobb & Douglas Public Health is committed to assisting with the vaccination effort.  The HAV vaccine is available at our clinics.  If the food worker has insurance, the insurance company will be billed for the administration of the vaccine, unless paid for otherwise.  An administration fee of $21.90 is requested from the uninsured patient receiving the state-supplied vaccine, however, no one will be refused care due to inability to pay.

If you have questions regarding the HAV disease, please call our Epidemiology & Health Assessment team at 770-514-2432.  For answers to questions regarding hepatitis A immunizations, please call 770-514-2349.    Please review the Hepatitis A fact sheet for more information.

Upcoming ServSafe Class in Douglas County

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There will be a ServSafe Food Safety Management course presented at our Douglas County Environmental Health office on August 27-28th.  Our Douglas office is located within the Douglas Courthouse, 8700 Hospital Drive in Douglasville.  Registration will close on August 8th.  The registration form and links to other CFSM providers can be found on our website.

As a reminder, every food service establishment is required to have a certified food safety manager (CFSM) with current certification that is actively engaged in overseeing the application of food handling and operations in their respective facility, unless otherwise exempt by the Georgia Food Service Rules and Regulations Chapter 511-6-1.  Please check your certification to ensure that the time has not lapsed.  Also, please share this information with others as applicable.

Plan Ahead with a Food Service Emergency Operations Plan!

We recently had a Boil Water Advisory that affected a significant number of homes and businesses over a large portion of Cobb County.  Once it was announced, several food service establishment owners and operators began inquiring as to how long it would take the Center for Environmental Health to review their proposed emergency water supply plan so they could keep stay open for business.   Unfortunately, by the time we were contacted, it was already too late for a review.

The Rules and Regulations for Food Service allow for a food service establishment to operate for up to two hours after a water service interruption; however, to continue operating beyond that limit, the food service establishment must have a pre-approved emergency water supply plan in place prior to the water interruption event.  As you can probably guess, planning for a water service interruption during the actual interruption will not help you stay open beyond that initial two hours, but careful planning now can help position you to effectively deal with your next emergency event.

If you would like to develop your own Emergency Operations Plan (EOP), a great place to start is the Emergency Action Plan guide  produced by the Conference for Food Protection.  This excellent resource can be used to develop a plan to cover water service interruptions, sewage backups, fires, floods, and power outages.  Once you’ve developed your own plan, submit it to your local Environmental Health office for review and approval.

Cobb & Douglas Public Health encourages food service owners and operators to start developing  their EOPs today.  In the event of an actual emergency, an approved EOP can not only help you operate safely, but can reduce down time and save a facility money in the long run.

Boiled Water Advisory in Effect for Parts of Cobb County

The Cobb County Water System has issued a Boiled Water Advisory for Cobb County residents and businesses that are south of Windy Hill and Macland Roads.  Guidance for food service operators is available on our website.  For updates on the status of the boil water advisory, please visit the Cobb County Government or Cobb County Water System websites