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:


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:

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!

Our Last CFSM Class for 2017 is Coming in December!

Every food service establishment is required to have at least one certified food safety manager (CFSM) unless they are exempted by the Rules and Regulations for Food Service.  The last ServSafe Food Safety Management course taught by Cobb & Douglas Public Health in 2017 will be held on December 12-13 at the Marietta Health Center, Building B, 1738 County Services Pkwy, Marietta.  Registration closes on November 15, so please share this information with those in need of this training.  The registration form must be completed and returned with payment to assure a seat in this class.  Visa or MasterCard payments may be taken via phone by calling our main Environmental Health line at 770-435-7815.

New Research: Cleaning Sponges is a Bad Thing

~ Contributed by J. Martin Little, MS, REHS, EHS IV

Recently, a study conducted by the University of Furtwangen (located in Germany) found that cleaning dirty sponges actually helps out the very worst bacteria, instead of destroying them.  A common method that people use to kill bacteria, ‘nuking the sponge’ in the microwave, only kills the weak ones while the strongest, smelliest– and even potentially pathogenic– bacteria will survive.

The destruction of the weak bacteria creates a space for the stronger bacteria to occupy and thrive due to a lack of competing microorganisms.  This cleaning method results in a sponge that actually becomes ‘stinkier and nastier’ and you may regret not just tossing it, as the report published in Scientific Reports states.

The study looked at the DNA and RNA of organisms from 14 different samples taken from sponges, and from those, 362 distinct species of bacteria where identified.  More interestingly, about 82 billion bacteria were living in just a cubic inch of sponge. “That’s about the same density of bacteria you can find in human stool samples”, the lead microbiologist, Markus Egert stated.  That’s right, it’s like you’re cleaning with a stool specimen.  This description may lead to an undesirable visual image; however,  it stresses the importance of maintaining clean, sanitized and well maintained cleaning devices in YOUR kitchen—whether it’s a home kitchen or a food service kitchen.  Remember that, according to our Rules and Regulations for Food Service Chapter 511-6-1-.05(1), Sponges may not be used in contact with cleaned and sanitized or in-use food-contact surfaces.

(Study content taken from the August 8th, 2017, New York Times)


National School Lunch Week 2017: Communication

Part 3 of the Food-Safe Schools Action Guide encourages communication, which is important in all areas of food service. Communication with local partners, such as, school nutrition managers, school administrators, school nurses, emergency planners, and even students, is very important in cultivating an environment of food safety. Please see the food safe schools link for further information within the action guide on how school nutrition professionals are encouraged to communicate with various partners:

– Submitted by Danielle Pierre, MPH Intern

National School Lunch Week 2017: Action Sheets

To continue our discussion for National School Lunch Week 2017 (October 9th-13th), we will dive into the other two parts of the Food-Safe Schools Action Guide: ACT and COMMUNICATE.  The USDA Food and Nutrition Services’ Office of Food Safety suggests that after school nutrition professionals assess their current food safety efforts, they use action sheets to help build a framework for each area of focus. Action sheets may include, but are not limited to the following areas: training and education, employee health, produce safety, and managing food allergens. Please see the following link for a complete list of action sheets suggested by the Office of Food Safety:

– Submitted by Danielle Pierre, MPH Intern