The importance of documentation

Whether a restaurant belongs to a large chain or simply a mom and pop operation, it is always beneficial to document cooler temperatures, hot holding temperatures, sanitizer concentration for dishwashers, time/temperature checks on a daily basis. A quality control program never hurts. I despise those restaurant inspections where I end up tossing away copious amounts of food simply because something went wrong; in this case, their cooler was inoperable. The other day on a routine restaurant inspection, I found that the temperature of all pre-made food products in a display cooler which included sausage hamburgers, cheese hamburgers, and others were reading at an internal temperature of 20°C. This could have easily been avoided if temperatures were routinely monitored. Apparently, this has been going on for a while without proper adjustment. Cooler temperatures must be maintained at 4-5°C to slow bacterial growth, not eliminate, to slow growth. Good idea to check your refrigerator at home as well. What a waste of food. Furthermore, perishable food products that are maintained at refrigeration temperatures must be labeled to verify the date it was prepared. If it is not consumed within three days, get rid of it, like you would with your old Milli Vanilli LP’s.

The Dirt on Mold

When was the last time you opened your fridge and saw this- the mold monster?  Hopefully never, but if you have, you’ve probably experienced some sort of sickness related to eating the food from the fridge.  Mold grows from decomposing organic material, and in addition to a foul order and slime, mold is a great indicator of food going bad.  But food can be decidedly “bad” before the mold fully appears.

Unfortunately the busy life of student has led me to find the mold monster lurking in my fridge on more than one occasion.  CNNHealth gives some great advice to college students this week: “Don’t eat mold.”  Not only is it unappetizing, but molds can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems as well as produce mycotoxins, poisonous substances that can make you sick.

I’ve definitely never gone as far to intentionally consume mold.  I believe in labeling my leftovers with the date and smelling foods before eating them.  It’s not a foolproof way to avoid food-borne illness from moldy foods, but it’s better than eating leftovers blindly.

CNNHealth goes on to offer additional tips to enjoy a meal from the fridge: The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends discarding moldy bread and baked goods, because of their porous texture.
Creamy dairy products like yogurt can easily spread mold and should be discarded. So
ft cheeses with high moisture content — including those that are shredded, sliced, or crumbled — can be contaminated with both mold and bacteria. So throw those away, experts advise.
Hard cheeses can be saved, as long as the mold is cut 1 inch around the spot. Because of the cheese’s hardness, the mold generally cannot penetrate deep into the product.

Mom taught me well, to throw away any bread with the slightest bit of mold, and to keep moldy hard cheese but to cut away the mold. (Within reason of course, I’m talking about cutting off a dime-sized piece of mold, not eating a furry piece of cheese.)  I also try to disinfect my fridge at least every six months.

What if the fridge doesn’t belong to you?  Office or community fridges can be hot spots for spoiled food and moldy surfaces.  The Pittsburg Post-Gazette cites a survey by the American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods which “found that 44 percent of office refrigerators are cleaned once a month and 22 percent are cleaned only once or twice a year.”

Clean out your fridge at home with a household kitchen cleaner – preferably something with bleach.  Institute a bi-weekly cleanup day for the office fridge.  These are two terrific ways to lower your risk of contracting a food-borne illness from fridge food.  You can also reference the USDA’s guide on moldy food when deciding what to trash or save.

Also, don’t forget to wash your hands after touching all that mold.

Bad idea: using air conditioned hotel room for food storage

Pennsylvania state inspectors said the Holiday Inn on Greenfield Road, east of Lancaster, was using a guest room to store perishable food because a refrigerator in the restaurant had stopped working. ??????

Bill Chirdon, Director of Food Safety for the State Agriculture Department said,

“Yes. We did have an unusual situation."

The agency got a tip last week from an employee at the Holiday Inn on Greenfield Road, just off Route 30, east of Lancaster. ??????The employee said perishable food from the restaurant was being stored in a guest room because a commercial refrigerator broke.

Chirdon said that means the food was stored at around 65 degrees, not nearly cold enough to be safe. ??????He said the commercial refrigerator at the hotel was repaired and the poorly stored food was thrown out. He said follow-up inspections will be done.

‘Hand sanity’ at Kansas State

The Kansas State Collegian cited Mike Heideman, communication specialist for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, as saying that hand sanity is a good way to avoid some of the risks of getting sick.

Maybe hand sanitation.

The reporter called me and I gave her some stuff, but she eventually talked to food science MSc student and barfblogger Andrew Reece, who — fresh off his microwave cooking video — said students should pay attention to packaging labels and that using a microwave oven to cook food is not a proper substitute for a standard oven if that’s what a package calls for.

"Sometimes packaging can be really vague, and the food may seem fully cooked, but isn’t."

Additionally, students can visit and for more information about food safety.

Way to plug the home team.

Joye Gordon, associate professor of journalism, said a common cause of foodborne illness locally is that students’ refrigerators are not kept cold enough, adding,

"They should keep the temperature 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Some pathogens thrive in cold temperatures."

Anyone want to comment on that?