A Change in Food Program Management

By Karen Gulley, MPH, Outgoing Env. Health County Manager

My time with Cobb & Douglas Public Health has produced many fond memories.  As the Food Program Manager, I have assisted and/or worked with many of you as regulations have changed, training & action plans have been needed, etc.  In the process you have helped me to grow.  Effective March 1st, I will be officially retired from my current position and moving on to the next part of my journey—of course Food Safety education will still be a part. 😊  If you would like to touch base with me later, feel free to reach out on LinkedIn or khgulley@gmail.com .

The new Food Program Manager will be Ka Dana Simmons.  Ka Dana has a Master of Public Health and has been the Food Program Training Standard for Cobb & Douglas Public Health for almost 5 years now.  She looks forward to working with you in her new role and may be reached at KaDana.Simmons@dph.ga.gov .

I wish you all the best and, as always, thank you for your commitment to Food Safety!

A Black History Month Food Safety Highlight

By Karen Gulley, Environmental Health County Manager

Can you imagine where we would be without a safe way to transport food and medicine across the miles?  An African American inventor by the name of Frederick McKinley Jones designed the first reliable mobile refrigeration system that allowed fresh food to travel great distances without spoiling and was used for preserving blood and medicine for army hospitals. His invention led to the ability to ship frozen foods and, in turn, the rise of supermarkets.   Frederick Jones became the co-founder of Thermo King, a huge company known for efficient refrigeration transportation.

His ideas improved–not only food safety–but cinema, race cars, boats, and medical equipment.  At the time of his death on February 21, 1961, he held 61 patents and was the first Black inventor to receive the National Medal of Technology.

Multi-Cultural Food Safety

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

By Karen Gulley, Environmental Health County Manager

As we enter this Martin Luther King, Jr. Weekend of Service, I can’t help but think of the diversity found in the food service industry.  For instance, one is likely to enter a restaurant and find a number of different cultures and languages represented from the front of the house to the back of the house. The need to effectively communicate food safety principles and practices to all involved—and at the level of understanding necessary– is very important. Check out these free food safety tools in various languages to assist.

Test Your Foodborne Virus Knowledge!

Image courtesy of the CDC Public Health Image Library

By Gracie Dean, Kennesaw State University Intern

While they often get overlooked when people talk about foodborne illnesses, viruses are one of our biggest concerns when it comes to keeping food safe! Test your foodborne virus knowledge by tackling our Foodborne Viruses Crossword Puzzle!

Cake Decorating Hazard: Toxic Metal Poisoning!

Photo by Mohammad Danish on Pexels.com

By Gracie Dean, Kennesaw State University Intern

A recent article in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report detailed a public health investigation that took place in Rhode Island after a group of children had gotten sick at a birthday party.  Their sickness was linked to metal poisoning from non-edible “luster dust” that was used in the birthday cake’s frosting.

Luster dust is a common cake decoration that’s also sold as pearl dust, petal dust, disco dust, twinkle dust, sparkle dust, highlighter, or shimmer powder. Unfortunately, not all luster dust is safe to consume, so remember to use the following guidance when purchasing luster dust:

Safe to consume luster dust:Not Safe to consume luster dust:
Required by the FDA to be labeled as edible and must include a list of ingredients.Will typically have the words “non-toxic” or “for decorative purposes only” written on the label. Do not confuse “non-toxic” with “edible”. These products are not safe for consumption. If the label is unclear, assume the product is unsafe for use in edible items.

When certain luster dusts were tested, the findings indicated high levels of various metals such as copper and lead. Symptoms found with toxic metal poisoning included:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea 30 minutes – 10 hours after eating the cake/frosting, with symptoms lasting up to 10 hours.
  • Additionally, children who ingest lead may experience neurological damage that may result in behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures, and in severe cases, death. There is no safe level of lead exposure.

This is a good reminder to ensure that all ingredients used for making and decorating edible items are recognized as safe for consumption!

When in Doubt…Get a Permit!

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By Eboni Waters, EHS 4

We have noticed an increase in the number of unpermitted after-hours/weekend-only roadside food operations and shared kitchens. These types of operations are not legal and here’s the reason why:

According to the Rules and Regulations for Food Service  511-6-1-.02(1)(a), no person shall conduct any type of food service operation without first obtaining a food service permit. Operating without a valid food service permit may result in disciplinary action, including costly fines and a court ordered closure. Additionally, it’s not fair for legitimate operators who have obtained food service permits to have their customers lured away by illegal competition.

Next, we’ve all heard that “sharing is caring,” but unfortunately, in the food service world, sharing isn’t always a good thing. Rule -.08(2) states “The shared use of facilities or equipment by two separate permit holders is prohibited.” No food operation is permitted to share equipment, space, or time without first obtaining a variance. For example, Business Owner A, the permit holder of the facility, would like to share their kitchen space with Business Owner C. To do this legally, Business Owner A must first apply for and obtain a variance from the Georgia Department of Public Health before entering into this business arrangement with Business Owner C. This kitchen can only be shared after the variance is approved.

Please visit our website to obtain additional information about how to get permitted and/or how to apply for a variance.

Feel free to reach out to your local Environmental Health office regarding any questions or concerns you may have. We are here to help!

Something Smells Fishy, But It’s Not the Fish!

© Citron / CC BY-SA 3.0, Pangasius sanitwongsei, CC BY-SA 3.0

By Kim Brown, EHS4

Last month while conducting a routine inspection, I opened a grill drawer and found raw fish filets.  I asked the restaurant and kitchen manager for the name of the fish.  They said it was Grouper, but then said it was Pangasius, which they went on to say was a type of Grouper.  I began thinking that what they were saying sounded “fishy” (pun intended).

When I sat down to write up the report, I asked for copies of the delivery invoice for the fish and for a menu.  The menu stated Grouper, but the invoice said Pangasius.  Although familiar with Grouper, I did an online search of both fish.  Pangasius is actually a large freshwater catfish, which is not related to a grouper at all.  I asked the restaurant manager about it, and he stated that he was told by upper management that since it was a group of fish, you could call it “grouper”.

The following day I sent an e-mail to their upper management and informed them of what is written in the Rules and Regulations Food Service Chapter 511-6-1-04 (1): Food shall be safe, unadulterated, and honestly presented.  This is a 9-point violation on the inspection form!  As a result, the company reprinted their menus. 

Restaurants must remain honest with their customers and use the correct names of the food they serve.  Serving a less expensive fish– stating it is a more expensive fish listed on the menu–is not only deceptive but illegal

Another point is that fish is one of the 8 major food allergens and, in most cases, if you are allergic to one fish you are allergic to all and would know to stay away from it altogether. However, in the case presented above, catfish was the substitution.  Catfish are often farm-raised—with the catfish being fed soy pellets which would be of concern for someone allergic to soy.  Imagine what could happen if someone unknowingly ate something they were allergic to because the food service operation failed to inform them of a substitution.  The outcome of an allergic reaction can range from mild symptoms to the possibility of death.

Bottom line, customers have the right to know what they’re really eating.  Intentional misrepresentation of menu items is wrong and could actually cause harm.

Is It Cross Contamination or Cross Contact?

Uploaded by The University of Maine, August 16, 2021

By Gracie Dean, Kennesaw State University Intern

Cross ContaminationCross Contact
    DefinitionThe transfer of microorganisms from one food to another, such as bacteria or viruses transferred from one food to another that make food unsafe to eatThe transfer of allergens—the mixing of proteins–directly or indirectly from one food to another that can make the food unsafe for persons with food allergies.
        ExampleUsing a cutting board to prepare raw chicken and then using the same cutting board to prepare tomatoes for salad. In this instance, cross contamination is occurring and enabling the spread of harmful bacteria like Salmonella bacteria from the raw chicken to the tomatoes.Using a knife to cut a peanut butter sandwich then using the same knife to cut a grilled cheese sandwich. In this instance, the protein/allergen from the peanut butter may be transferred to the grilled cheese, resulting in a dangerous case of cross contact.

*Prepare raw meat, seafood and poultry separate from ready-to-eat foods

*Color code kitchen utensils for use with specific food types

*Cover and store refrigerated time and temperature controlled for safety (TCS) foods according to minimum cook temperatures (see link below)

*Clean and sanitize workstations, cutting boards and equipment between use
*Color code kitchen utensils for use with specific foods

*Cook allergen-free foods first

*Cover foods and store known allergens like fish and peanuts away from other foods

*Remake the whole dish if possible cross contact has occurred

*Clean and sanitize food contact surfaces between each use

Is your business storing food safely to avoid cross contamination? Double-check by clicking on the following link for a handy food storage guide:


Be Prepared for Norovirus Season!

A message from Karen Gulley, Food Program Manager

Covid-19 presented specific concerns to the food service industry due to the ways in which it is easily transmitted from person to person through the air and frequently touched surfaces.  However, the two viruses known to easily spread through food due to a food handler’s poor personal hygienic practices are hepatitis A and norovirus.  Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the food service industry had been notified of increased hepatitis A cases in GeorgiaVirginia is now dealing with an outbreak of hepatitis A, and we are entering what is often referred to as Norovirus Season.  Our greatest defense against these two viruses is effective handwashing.  Please pay close attention to when and how the hands of food workers are washed, along with other personal hygienic practices and the enforcement of appropriate vomit and fecal clean-up policies and procedures to help maintain essential controls in food facilities.

To assist regulatory staff as well as food service operators, the Association for Food and Drug Officials (AFDO) has planned an informative webinar entitled Norovirus Season Is Just Around the Corner.  It will be held on Monday, November 8th from 1:30-3:00 PM ESTYou are encouraged to register today if you would like to attend.  Feel free to share this with anyone you believe could benefit from this information.

Food Safety Refresher: How to Wash Hands

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

By Eboni Waters, EHS 4, Training Coordinator

Every now and then, we all need a quick refresher about the basic principles of food safety!  With that in mind, today’s topic is handwashing. 

Handwashing is a crucial step when preparing food, and it’s one of the key practices that must be in place to protect your customers from foodborne illness. Proper handwashing ensures that germs are removed from your hands before preparing someone’s food, and it helps prevent the contamination of kitchen surfaces. Handwashing is also our greatest defense against viruses, such as Hepatitis A and norovirus, which can easily contaminate a customer’s food if an infected food handler’s hands aren’t properly washed and gloved.

When washing hands, follow these steps:

  1. Wet your hands and arms. Water should be at least 100⁰F.
  2. Apply soap
  3. Lather vigorously, using friction, for 10-15 seconds. Wash between fingers, under nails, and on the tops of your hands.
  4. Rinse thoroughly
  5. Dry with a paper towel or hot-air dryer
  6. Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open any bathroom or kitchen doors

A sign, such as our “Employee Must Wash Hands” sign, which notifies food service workers that handwashing is required, must be posted at all handwashing sinks used by food workers.