Thursday, September 8, 2011

Food Safety center plate in September

The Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) joins with the National Restaurant Association (NRA) every September to highlight the importance of food safety. This year’s theme of National Food Safety Education Month was “Lessons Learned from the Health Inspection.” Throughout the month of September the LRA made it a priority to spread that message far and wide—from the classroom to international visitors.

ProStart® students are “inspected”
In early September, LRA ServSafe® instructor Barry Blue visited ProStart students at St. Charles Career Satellite Center in Luling to teach them the basics of serving food safely and keeping a commercial kitchen as sanitary as possible. Blue reviewed the components of the restaurant inspection and the many points restaurants are graded on during a sanitarian’s visit. A few weeks later, St. Charles ProStart Instructor Chef Patrick Phelan and his students decided to take the lesson one step further.

During the class’s busy “CafĂ© Day,” where students prepare a three course meal for visiting St. Charles Parish business leaders and government employees, one ProStart student posed as a sanitarian and, with clipboard in hand, “inspected” the ProStart kitchen while the meal was being prepared. This exercise simulated what a real kitchen would experience when a Louisiana Department of Health& Hospitals sanitarian appears unannounced at a restaurant or foodservice establishment. The students proved they had taken Blue’s presentation to heart, passing the inspection with a score of 93 percent.

China learns best practices
China’s search for food safety enhancements led a group of seven visitors to the U.S. late last month and one stop was to the LRA headquarters. The group, made up of professionals from the People’s Republic of China, specifically the Shanghai and Sichuan Provincial’s Food & DrugAdministration (FDA), and a reporter from the China Food Newspaper, heard a presentation on the LRA and the restaurant industry’s role in food safety management and compliance from LRA VPs Pam St. Pierre and Wendy Waren. 

As one might recall, China’s most widely-known food safety issue dates to 2008, when the industrial chemical melamine tainted the milk supply killing at least six Chinese children and made tens of thousands of others in Beijing sick.
Earlier this year, 17 noodle makers were shut down in the Guangdong province for mixing ink and wax into the dough. China is paving the way for a safer food supply. Peifang Ge, Deputy Director of the Shanghai FDA, shared their training requirements for food handlers.
“We require anywhere from two to five full days of training depending on whether you are an owner, kitchen manager or food handler," she said.

St. Pierre referenced the recent California mandate which requires all restaurant employees handling food to complete the two-hour ServSafe FoodHandler. To date, the California Restaurant Association has certified nearly 400,000 people. She feels strongly that other states will begin seeking the same sort of mandates. The LRA and the DHH led the effort in the Louisiana Legislature in 1999 to mandate ServSafe be taught to foodservice professionals.

ProStart is a registered trademark of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation.

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