Utah bill to exempt food volunteers from mandatory food handler training

Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill writes,
New Utah food safety regulations currently prevent individuals from serving food without a food handler’s permit, although that might change. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, a bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Eliason will exempt volunteers, who are suddenly unable to serve meals to the homeless, namely at The Road Home. Hunger becomes a secondary concern when one gets foodborne illness.SCSK-Wide-Dine
The bill (HB176) would exempt volunteers from needing the food handler’s permits and Eliason states that they will receive some sort of food safety training. Eliason says “that in 30 years of volunteers providing food in the shelter, there hasn’t been a single case of food poisoning or foreign objects found in the food.”

Maybe. Volunteers aren’t magically immune from making people sick. Amongst the outbreaks, 40 visitors of the Denver Rescue Mission were hospitalized due to Staph aureus intoxication in 2012.

The Road Home has multiple kitchens where families can cook their own meals, but it’s the free food that’s at stake. The families are unable to save money so that they can leave the shelter if they have to purchase food. Nearby shelters and churches suffer as well; respectively, they cannot handle the increased demand for meals, nor do they receive donated meals.

Homeless people are a vulnerable, underserved population that is unlikely to visit a doctor, given its cost, when under gastrointestinal distress. Similarly, homeless shelters and food pantries operate under the Good Samaritan Act, which allows for varying degrees of safety for the distributed foods. A food handler’s permit isn’t a guarantee, but it does mean that each food handler has to have basic knowledge of foodborne illness and how it can be prevented. A good management structure is needed to ensure volunteers follow best practices.

Food served to the homeless should be just as safe as food purchased in a luxury restaurant—and without guidance on food safety and handling, there is little way to guarantee that is the case. Maybe there’s a way for the state of Utah to provide the permits and/or classes at zero to little cost, so that volunteers can access the information.

Looking for risk reduction info and finding little

Ashley Chaifetz, a PhD student studying public policy at UNC-Chapel Hill writes,

After last year’s extended recall of my dog’s food, I switched brands. The recalls kept piling up and I did not want to put Chloe, my dog, at an increased risk as I repeatedly switched out bags of food.IMG_5238-225x300

Our pet food store gave me all sorts of samples for her to try before I committed to a new 30-lb bag. This time, I decided look up all the brands I had samples for in the FDA recall database. I initially considered ruling out companies with a history of recalls because repeated problems demonstrates a company that can’t get it right.

But what to do about businesses that may have had one health-related recall? Or none?

What I want to know is what a company does, or has done in response to an event, to improve their systems to reduce the risk of dogfoodborne illness.

It’s really hard to find information from dog food producers about what they do to keep Chloe’s potential food safe. It’s time for producers to step it up.

Providing consumers with risk reduction plans and systems, whether a company has had a contamination event or not, should be the industry standard but only a few companies provide this information.