NEHA Is Searching for Food Safety Heroes!

During National Food Safety Education Month, the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) is paying tribute to those in the food industry who have been on the front lines during this time of COVID-19 pandemic response.  With that in mind, they have a Food Safety Heroes campaign going on throughout the month of September recognizing those in the food safety workforce that have excelled in their duties during this time.  If you know of such a person, please nominate him/her as a Food Safety Hero and check out NEHA’s Food Safety Heroes blog as individuals are highlighted.

Tools Now Available to Promote Food Safety Education Month!

The month of September is recognized nationally as Food Safety Education Month.  Although COVID-19 is definitely in the spotlight right now, let’s not let our guard down in regard to Food Safety because the CDC still states that an estimated 48 million Americans get sick and 3,000 die from eating contaminated food.       

The Partnership for Food Safety Education [which is comprised of the CDC, FDA, and USDA along with other contributing partners and special project supporters] has developed The Consumer Food Safety Educator EVALUATION TOOLBOX & GUIDE that provides several resources for Food Safety training and emphasis that can not only be used during this month but throughout the year.  The kit includes videos, posters and more.  Register to gain access to a wealth of resources for FREE. 

New State Law Affects Nonprofit Food Service Events

On August 5th, 2020, Governor Kemp signed the “Sandwich Bill” into law.  This allows nonprofit organizations to provide meals free of charge for up to 12 weeks between May 15 and August 15–along with four additional weeks during the calendar year—without having to have a Food Service permit from the local health authority.  This allows for the providing of meals during the times schools are out for the holidays and special occasions; however, those receiving funding from the United States Department of Agriculture are not included in this permit exemption.   Home-preparation of food is not allowed.

Article 14, which governs nonprofit sponsored events, was also further updated to better reflect current food safety guidance.  It also provides for the issuance of permits by the municipalities and county governments for nonprofit sponsored events; or any outdoor recreational activity sponsored by the state, county, municipality or related entity; or private school function; or indoor/outdoor public school function (except for public school cafeterias) operating no more than 120 hours.  The local health departments may be requested by the local governments to provide inspectionsnot permits—at such eventsAn inspection fee may be assessed by the local health department of jurisdiction for such requested inspections.  For example, Cobb & Douglas Public Health would assess an inspection fee for each vendor if such events are held in Cobb or Douglas counties.    Those temporary food service events operating for more than 120 hours but less than 14 days will be under the permitting authority of the local health department.

The Georgia Department of Public Health has prepared a Frequently Asked Questions About Nonprofit Food Service Events document to help answer questions you may have concerning this new law.  Our Food Service Regulations are being updated to include the change in determination of exemptions and definitions of a food service establishment.  Notification of the completion of the update will be provided in the near future.

In-Person ServSafe Class Offered in Douglas County

An in-person ServSafe Food Safety Managers Course will be hosted by Cobb & Douglas Public Health at the Douglas County Courthouse (8700 Hospital Drive, Douglasville, GA 30134) on August 25-26, 2020.  Attendees will be able to socially distance while receiving instruction to prepare for the ServSafe Food Safety Managers exam which will be administered at the end of the 2nd day of class.  If you need to re-certify, retest or take the course for the first time, please see the ServSafe Registration Form for more information.

Feel free to share this information with anyone that may be interested in taking the course.

COVID-19 Disinfectants for Contact Surfaces

By Andrea Moore, EHS 2

As food service establishments are reopening their dining areas to patrons, there have been questions as to what kind of disinfectants can be used for tables, countertops, and other commonly touched areas in a restaurant. Many restaurant owners and managers have expressed concerns about mitigating the spread of the COVID-19 by ensuring the cleaning products that are used in their facility to clean and disinfect common contact surfaces are effective against the virus.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the List N:  Disinfectants for Use Against COVID-19 that includes EPA registered surface disinfectants including wipes for contact surfaces only. Disinfectants kill germs on surfaces which can further lower the risk of spreading infections. The EPA expects products on this list to kill the virus because they demonstrate effectiveness against a harder to kill virus or another similar human coronavirus.   Hand sanitizers, antiseptic washes and antibacterial soaps are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and, won’t be listed on the EPA list. However, if EPA-approved List N disinfectants are not accessible, unscented bleach can be used as an alternative disinfectant. Please keep in mind that you want to always read and follow the directions on the label to ensure safe and effective use.  If wiping food contact surfaces, such as dining room tables, be sure to follow label instructions for use on food contact surfaces. 

The following are instructions for using bleach as an alternative disinfectant:

  • 1/3 cup of unscented bleach added to 1 gallon of water. Do not mix bleach with other cleaning and disinfecting products because this can cause fumes that are very dangerous to breathe in.

Additionally, the links below have been provided for EPA- approved disinfectants and tips for using disinfectants safely and effectively:

EPA-approved disinfectants

Six Steps for Safe & Effective Disinfectant Use (PDF)

As we continue the fight against COVID-19, enhancing sanitation by disinfecting common surfaces regularly will help to prevent the spread of the virus. For example: Disinfect tables between diners, clean and sanitize table condiments, digital ordering devices, check presenters, self-service areas, tabletops and commonly touched areas, and discard single-use items.

We appreciate your cooperation and diligence to maintain a safe and healthy environment for patrons during these uncertain times. We will get through this! Thank you for all that you do !

You can find additional resources anytime on the CDPH website or foodsafety.gov. As always, don’t hesitate to contact your inspector with any questions or concerns.

FREE COVID-19 testing is available – registration is required www.cdphcovid19testing.org

Special Serving Styles

By Idelia Ulmer, EHS4

Georgia’s Rules and Regulations for Food Service 511-6-1 allow for special options for serving food in restaurants.  This post helps to distinguish between some of the special options that are available.

Cafeteria-Style Buffet

All food is displayed, BUT food workers are responsible for serving the customers, handling the utensils, and ensuring proper distancing in lines.  Cafeteria style may be applied to Salad Bars, Dessert Bars, Cold and Hot Food Buffets, etc. provided that:

  • Sneeze guards/shields must be designed or modified to protect all food from customer exposure and direct access. If ends are not closed, shield angles must continue along all exposed sides (3-sides) with a height of at least 18 inches from counter height usually – without openings to prevent customer access.  Exception: Units may be in-line with other equipment to prevent (food) access from unshielded sides.
  • For serving food refills, servers must use new tableware (plates, bowls).

Traditional Buffet-Style

Buffets may be reopened for customer use if hand sanitizer is available at the buffet, sneeze guards are in place, customers socially distance while going down the line, and utensils are changed out regularly.

Hibachi Grill  

At table-side, food service employees grill food for immediate service to the customer. Limit the amount of food stored at hibachi grill to what is needed for service two one sitting of people. Returned and/or remaining ready-to-eat foods must be discarded.

Family-Style

A group of customers are seated at a table for one sitting.  Servers bring ready-to-eat food to the table in large serving dishes. Dishes are passed around for each person to serve their own plate. Remaining or returned food must be discarded. [Family-style self-service may have additional requirements and require health authority’s approval before facilities implement this serving style].

Important Reminders

All food service facilities must comply with Georgia Rules and Regulations Food Service 511-6-1.

Ensure that preventive measures to protect against the exposure and spread of COVID-19 among your patrons and workforce are in place. as required by Governor Kemp’s Executive Order.

Temporary Food Service Event Update

By Kiah Munroe, EHS3

This time last year, Cobb County Temporary Event season was in full swing!  Unfortunately, due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, this is not the case.  The spread of this virus has led to the suspension of events statewide due to social distancing requirements.  As plans for events are beginning again, this is the perfect time to outline and discuss changes in procedures and processes for temporary events in Cobb County.  It is hoped that the time taken by potential vendors and organizers will help to ensure that they have all necessary items to run a booth or station safely and efficiently.  This post will discuss changes in the application process, outline requirements for setup, as well as provide some helpful tips to all interested in temporary food events.

Application Process

Organizers are required to submit an Organizers Application 30 days prior to the event.  Applications must be completed entirely and can be found here.  Organizers must also submit a list of vendors that will be participating in the event.  It is the responsibility of the organizer to ensure that only vendors permitted by the department will be allowed to participate in the event.  Any vendor found to be participating without permission from the department must be ordered by the organizer to leave the premises of the event. 

Vendors must submit applications, as well.  That application can be found here.  These applications must be submitted no less than 21 days prior to the event.  One may ask, “what if we have changes?” or “what if a vendor cancels?”.  Cobb County will allow the swapping of vendors for new vendors, up until 1 week prior to the day of the event.  Due to the short time frame, swaps at this point may only be a permitted Cobb County food truck.  You can find a list of Cobb County permitted trucks here.

It is the responsibility of the organizer to ensure that there are enough portable sanitation units available, if central restrooms are unavailable.  You can find more information on portable sanitation units for special events here and a list of state certified service providers here.

Event Setup

The following is required for temporary food setup in Cobb County:

  1. At least one hand washing station, equipped with warm potable water (via a spigot that allows for a continuous flow of water), soap, and paper towels. 
  2. A station for washing, rinsing, and sanitizing dishes utensils and surfaces.  A test kit or testing device must accompany sanitizer.
  3. Hot holding equipment (if serving hot foods) capable of holding product at 135°F or higher.
  4. Cold holding equipment capable of holding time and temperature controlled for safety (TCS)  foods at 41°F or below.
  5. Gloves, tongs, utensils, or deli paper to avoid bare hand contact with Ready-To-Eat (RTE) foods.

For more information, and to ensure readiness, please see and use this checklist here to prepare for a temporary food service event in Cobb County.

Vendor Tips

Food preparation may be done only in permitted kitchens/locations.  Foods found to be prepared in unapproved locations are subject to being discarded.  Limited food prep may be done on site.

  • Fresh produce must be pre-washed/precut OR washed and cut in permitted location only.
  • Hair of food handlers must be effectively restrained.
  • It is important to take proper measures to maintain hot or cold temperatures during the transport of food to the event site, as it may be difficult to warm or cool product on site.
  • Raw animal product must always be stored separate from Ready-To-Eat (RTE) or cooked foods.
  • Calibrated thermometers must be on hand to measure the internal temperature of TCS foods.
  • Physical barriers (covers, hoods, mesh netting) are required to protect foods from contamination and/or the elements.
  • There must always be a designated Person-In-Charge to oversee operations as well as answer questions about food safety during operation.

We look forward to the commencing of the temporary event season.  Should you have further questions, please visit our website at www.cobbanddouglaspublichealth.com or contact our Temporary Food Service & Seasonal Events Coordinator, Kim Brown at Kimberly.M.Brown@dph.ga.gov.

In the meantime, please stay safe and healthy!

Face Coverings Around Town!

Although the failure to wear face coverings is one of the most common COVID-19 Executive Order complaints we are receiving from the public, these Cobb and Douglas restaurants are sporting theirs! 

Some face coverings fit more comfortably than others, so finding the type that works best for you can help make wearing them a little easier.  If you’re having difficulty finding them, bandanas are acceptable for this use as well.  

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of those in the food service industry that are doing their part to protect their customers and their co-workers from COVID-19!

Updated Food Service Reopening Guidance Tools Are Now Available!

As more food service operations are opening their dining rooms, operators are reminded of the need to comply with the requirements found in Governor Kemp’s Executive Order from May 12, 2020 and to stay alert for any additional updates.  The Georgia Department of Public Health has updated its  COVID-19 GUIDANCE FOR RESTAURANTS WITH DINING ROOM SEATING  to reflect updates in the Executive Order.   

To assist operators with their plans for compliance, the National Restaurant Association has released its Reopening Guidelines training video as the 3rd tool in its series of free COVID-19 response videos for food service facilities. All three training videos are available in English and Spanish and are presented via ServSafe, the organization’s educational arm.  The Reopening Guidelines presents an overview of important actions that help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission by applying new sanitation and disinfecting practices, and recognizing new social distancing requirements that are key components to safely reopening food service operations.

Staying on Top of Key Drop Deliveries!

By Addie Zuniga, EHS2

An important duty of the person-in-charge (PIC) is to ensure the integrity and proper sourcing of food products received. This includes reviewing invoices, examining packaging, and verifying proper internal temperatures of Time-Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) foods as it comes into the facility. It’s the duty of the PIC to make sure packages are examined at the time of receipt, in order to reject any items that may appear damaged or tampered with, or TCS foods that are outside the safe temperature range.  But what about key drop deliveries?

Many food distributers run overnight routes, and this allows facilities the option of overnight deliveries. This is known as a “key drop delivery” – when food deliveries are dropped off in a kitchen, often inside a walk-in cooler, while the business is closed. This can be a convenient set-up, but how would the PIC maintain active managerial control over these deliveries when employees may not arrive at the facility for several hours after the truck has left?  The PIC must designate someone to look for damaged packaging or recalled products upon arrival, allowing those to be set aside for return and not served. However, temperature abuse can be hard to identify, especially if the TCS foods have already been in a walk-in cooler for a long period of time since delivery.  For example, there would be no way for the PIC to know if the refrigeration in the delivery truck had failed and that the TCS foods were transported for several hours in the temperature danger zone overnight, thereby posing a significant food safety risk. Therefore, it is not enough that a PIC simply verify internal temperatures of TCS foods when they arrive at the facility after a key drop delivery.

If a facility is considering key drop delivery, they must establish procedures with the distribution company, that the delivery drivers would be required to follow. There should be a written agreement in which the drivers are tasked with verifying and documenting the internal temperatures of a sample of TCS foods at the time of delivery, for the PIC to review. This is most often achieved by the driver noting the temperatures of various items on the invoice which is then left behind with the delivery.  These procedures may vary, but they should be detailed in the agreement. The PIC should maintain the right to reject these products, even after the driver has left, if they are not satisfied with documented temperatures or other conditions. This policy provides the PIC with the information they need to maintain managerial control over these products, and to know that they are safe for service.

This contract and procedure between the facility and the distributor must be approved by the health authority prior to key drop deliveries being implemented. The PIC should also keep a copy of the signed contract, as well as a recent sample of documented delivery temperatures, onsite for review during each health inspection. This documentation indicates to the health inspector that the PIC is maintaining active managerial control, and that foods are arriving safely and from approved sources.  If you are interested in key drop deliveries, please review the Key Drop Deliveries guidance document produced by Georgia Department of Public Health and our website for additional information.