Taking Ice for Granted

Reminders from Karen Gulley, Food Program Manager

In food service establishments, ice may be used for such purposes as keeping food cold, making drinks cool and refreshing, and as an ingredient—among other things.  Microorganisms may be found in ice, ice-storage chests, and ice-producing machines.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), these microorganisms get into the ice mainly as a result of transfer from a person’s hands or due to the potable (drinking) water source used.  Examples of microorganisms that cause human infection from ice include Legionella from potable water, Norovirus and Cryptosporidium from water containing fecal contamination, and Salmonella transferred from a person’s hands.

Thus, importance should be placed on keeping ice protected from contamination in the food service establishments by ensuring good handling practices which includes effective handwashing, using and properly storing a clean, impervious scoop with a handle, and not allowing bare hand contact with ice used for consumption.  Another big area of emphasis should be the cleaning and maintenance of ice machines.

During food service inspections, ice machines and ice storage units and dispensers are often marked as being out of compliance.  As shown in these “before and after” pictures provided courtesy of WeCleanIce.com, the cleaning of the inside of ice machines is warranted but often overlooked when scheduling times for the thorough cleaning of equipment.  Manufacturers of ice machines usually provide instructions for their cleaning, however, if instructions are not available, check out the guidance provided by the CDC on page 80 of their Guidelines for Environmental Infection Control in Health-Care Facilities.  Other helpful information regarding the importance of keeping ice safe is provided in the document as well.

 

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NEW MENU LABELING REQUIREMENTS

In order to help consumers make more informed decisions, the FDA has enacted a menu labeling rule that will apply to food service facilities that are part of a chain of 20 or more locations conducting  business under the same name and offering menus with the same items.  Calories must be displayed in the area of standard menu items and, upon request, specific nutritional information must be provided.  Other food service establishments could benefit from incorporating the labeling guidance into their standard operating procedures as well.

For more information, check out the following tools:

Update Regarding E. coli O157:H7 Linked to Romaine Lettuce

Georgia is among 19 states, at this time, that have confirmed cases of persons that have become ill with E. coli infections linked to romaine lettuce grown in the region of Yuma, Arizona.  The following is advice from the CDC to food service operators and retailers:

  • Do not serve or sell any romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona growing region. This includes whole heads and hearts of romaine, chopped romaine, and salads and salad mixes containing romaine lettuce.
  • Food service operators and retailers should ask their suppliers about the source of their romaine lettuce.

Visit Advice to Consumers, Restaurants, and Retailers on the CDC’s website for more detailed guidance concerning the outbreak.

WOULD YOU LIKE TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR NEXT FOOD SAFETY PARTNERSHIP PANEL?

Our next Food Safety Partnership Panel will focus on the Source of Food.  If you are an operator of a food service establishment and would like to represent the food industry on this panel, please contact Cobb & Douglas Public Health’s Food Program Manager, Karen Gulley, at 678-385-5066 or via email at Karen.Gulley@dph.ga.gov .  This panel episode is scheduled to be recorded on Monday, July 24th at 2:00 PM at the Douglas County Courthouse.

From the Manager’s Desk: Consumer Advisories

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Does Your Operation Need to Provide a Consumer Advisory?

If So, Does Yours Meet Code?

The failure to provide a consumer advisory when one is required has been found to be a violation in quite a few facilities in the Cobb & Douglas Health district. Not only can this result in the loss of points from the overall inspection score, but, it can also contribute to a consumer’s illness– and even death. The person-in charge of a food service facility should know: (1) whether or not the facility needs to have a consumer advisory [which is not always obvious]; and, if so, (2) what the advisory must contain as well as the locations an advisory is required. Please continue reading to help ensure that you are in compliance.

The consumer should have the opportunity to make a well-informed decision regarding the foods being considered for consumption, therefore, they should be informed of inherent risks to their health prior to the food being ordered or selected. An advisory is needed in the location where raw or undercooked foods (or ingredients) of animal origin are ordered or selected by the consumer.   Some of the areas that are commonly forgotten when considering whether or not an advisory is needed include the offering of such partially or uncooked food from a take-out menu, from a grill in which food is cooked to a customer’s request, and from a buffet bar.

The consumer advisory must contain both a disclosure as to the specific food(s) referred to as well as the following reminder statement: *CONSUMING RAW OR UNDERCOOKED MEATS, POULTRY, SEAFOOD, SHELLFISH, OR EGGS MAY INCREASE YOUR RISK OF FOODBORNE ILLNESS.

One of our environmental health specialists (Jen Birdsong) has prepared the following document [CLICK HERE] to help you in your efforts to comply with the regulations regarding the consumer advisory and options available to attain compliance.

If further assistance is needed, please contact me at 678-385-5066.

Karen Gulley

Environmental Health County Manager

Two New Food Safety Tools from the CDC

Over half of foodborne illness outbreaks are associated with restaurants. Be a part of the solution with new tools from the Centers for Disease Control:

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• The e-Learning on Environmental Assessment of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks is a free interactive online course to help prepare individuals to serve on a team that investigates foodborne illness outbreaks in restaurants and other food service venues. Continuing education units (CEUs) are available.

• The National Voluntary Environmental Assessment Information System (NVEAIS) is a new surveillance system targeted to jurisdictions that inspect and regulate restaurants and other food venues such as banquet facilities, schools, and other institutions. The system provides an avenue to capture underlying environmental assessment data that describes what happened and how events most likely led to a foodborne illness outbreak.

Access the two tools above at the following site: (http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehs/News/Features/2014/food-safety-tools.html)