Yesterday I took an all-day food handler course for my work with Fruit Share, which resulted in an exam at the end of the day (I passed with 98%. Awesome :)). I learned some important things about handling food, and throughout the day I made several observations which I thought I might share with you…
1) Food should always be rapidly cooled and kept out of the danger zone. The danger zone is room temperature. That’s when bacteria grows the fastest. Sad as it is, I had no idea. Whenever I cook things, I always leave them on the counter to cool off before putting them in the fridge (if I’m not eating them immediately). Apparently that’s completely wrong! I’ve been consuming piles of potentially harmful bacteria without knowing it (yummy?).
2) Bleach is a good sanitizer. Apparently, you can soak dishes in chlorine bleach for a few minutes to get all bacteria off, and then when it air-dries, all the bleach just vanishes into thin air and your food is perfectly safe when you use the dishes again. I’ve got to admit, I’m skeptical on this one. I mean, bleach? The government always tells us things are harmless and then 20 years later we find out that we’re all getting cancer from using x ingredient. I find it difficult to believe that bleach really just dissolves off the dish and leaves it safe for cutting raw meat and stuff on. But that’s just me.
3) The instructor sometimes doesn’t have the best practices. Case in point, after she told us that under no circumstances should chemicals ever be placed above food in a kitchen, she left the bucket of water/chlorine bleach on my desk. That desk was where I worked all day, and also ate lunch. Hmmm. Maybe it was a test?
4) Poultry was spelled wrong on a sample of the material of government-approved cutting board. The “u” was missing. That bothered me all day long and I really wanted to scribble it out and take a marker and spell it properly. What can I say; strange things irk me.
5) There’s more to think about than just pesticides. I’m fairly cautious about chemicals getting on my food, but I tend to think less about bacteria or viruses getting on my food, or physical objects (insect parts, bandages, and all the other gross stuff that people occasionally find in their food). It was interesting to see this whole other view. For example, at one point the instructor said she’d advise against using any kind of sprouts, or at least to cook them at a very high temperature to get rid of bacteria because they often are contaminated. I pointed out that the nutrients get lost if you cook sprouts, and she agreed. Normally I just rinse my sprouts briefly and then have at it. I don’t worry much about salmonella or E. coli and all that because… well, I’m not sure. I guess added chemicals bothered me more in the past since they’re deliberately added to food when we know it’s harmful to our bodies? Anyways, it all depends on your perspective as to what you prioritize with these kinds of things – but we should definitely think about all types of potential contaminates to our food.
6) I felt kind of like I was back in drivers ed in high school again. I remember watching videos in my driver course that said things like, “country kids get killed on country roads” in an ominous tone when we learned about the hazards of driving. With all the talk of foodborne illnesses and deaths resulting from them, it was very similar to that. I think everyone was a little frightened by the end of the day 😉
Have you ever taken a food handler course? What interesting things have you learned about the food industry and health inspections?