I love life!

Hi, I am Jo and this is my blog about my life. Here you will find entries on cooking, gardening, food safety and the interesting things happening in my search for an inexpensive and healthy way of living. My home is located in North Florida and I am relearning how to take care of myself at almost 50. This is the deep South so my garden and season may be a bit different than yours. I look forward to seeing what you have to say as time passes. Read on and have a beautiful day!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What Not To Do or Say During a Food Safety Inspection...or... Don't be Stupid 101

Working as a food safety inspector I have learned that roughly 98% of the population think they know all about food safety, however, even those that are Certified Food Managers have gaps in their education. It is a lot of information to know and consistently apply on a daily basis. Contrary to popular belief the inspectors are not, "Out to get you." I love nothing more than to write a "good" in a facility. We have a set of guidelines we use that we are required to check during every inspection. If you do not meet the minimum requirement then there is a deficiency that needs to be corrected. By the way if you are trying to endear yourself to me "Larry the Cable Guy" Health Inspector jokes are not the way to accomplish that goal.  First off I am a female, secondly this is not a fictionalized inspection in a made up hick town.

Most facilities have deficiencies. If you are processing food, human error will bite you every time. Employees forget to date items in the walk in or reach in cooler, foods are not covered in the walk in, someone turns off the running water over whatever is thawing in the sink....the list is endless. Working to educate your employees may be an unforgiving task but if you don't those same employees will do something amazingly stupid when we are there for our inspection.  Examples of awesome stupidity I have personally witnessed in major grocery stores include:

1) An employee wearing his apron into restroom, using the facilities then walking into the processing area in that same apron.
2) An employee smoking outside then walking to the processing area and resuming work without washing his hands.
3) A district trainer eating noodles over the platter of noodles is bad enough. To make it worse she used her fingers.
4) An employee wrapping cut watermelon without wearing plastic gloves.
5) A store manager was coughing  and stated to me she was very ill with flu like symptoms. She then walked directly into a processing area with me. Forcing me to inform her she could not be there as she could contaminate the foods being packaged. Note: She is in charge and I had to tell her it was unacceptable to be present in the facility. This falls into the truly ginormously stupid category.

The things people do and say never cease to amaze me. Do managers honestly think lying to us will make it better? We are lied to on a daily basis and the lies are the same almost everywhere. They are just told by a different person at a different facility each day. Here are some examples of lies we hear.

1) "We have a Certified Food Manager. We just don't have his / her certificate posted."
2) "Our hot water just went out." ( It is not even installed.)
3) "Rodents, we don't have rodents." ( Droppings all over facility.) The variant of this is , "Roaches, we don't have roaches." ( Roaches crawling everywhere .)
4) "That should not be happening because I have told them in the past not to do it that way." As the employee looks on incredulous.
5) "I called to get that repaired this morning." To which I now say, " Really, do you have a work order number?"
6) "We have never had this problem before." I do have access to previous reports and yes, it has been a problem before.  
7) " I know the Commissioner/ Important people/ Mayor / God." Really, I am so glad to hear it because maybe they can help you get this place cleaned up.
8) My favorite! Though not a lie. " You can't shut me down."  Ummm, actually, yes I can if you are an immanent health hazard.  

The other great thing is that even though managers are trying to cover everyones a**es, line employees will tell it to you like it is. You want to know what is going on? Ask the deli clerk or the talkative produce employee and you will get answers like this.

1)" Oh, we haven't had hot water at that sink for at least a month." Deli Clerk
2) " We are supposed to clean those racks every few days but we have not done them for over a week." Meat Cutter
3) " Rats. Yeah, we got em. They have been all over for a while now." Stock Clerk.
4) " We don't use that sink as a hand sink. We use it to wash coffee pots." Convenience Store Clerk
5) " What is sanitizer ?" Deli Clerk
6) " We just heat it up on the steam table." Deli Clerk
7) " Glad you are here. It is 'bout time someone did somethin 'bout them roaches." Convenience Store Clerk
8) " Nah,we don't thaw it under water we just sit the box of frozen chicken on the counter and pull from it all day." Deli Clerk
9) " That cooler has felt warm for about a week - at least." Meat Clerk
10) " Shoot, you want me to do all this extra stuff. Ain't gonna happen." Convenience Store Clerk

Another time I'll write a couple posts about what you can do for food safety in your own home. A couple tips to tide you over.
1) Wash your hands.
2) Wash you produce.
3) Cook poultry to 165 degrees.
4) Cook ground Meats to 155 degrees.
6) Don't buy dented cans even if they are less expensive.

These examples are the extremes of what I see every day. Please, remember most places have few violations and honestly try to provide safe and wholesome food. If you want to know about food safety in your area check you state website to find out which governing body regulates food in your state. They are all different.
Happy Shopping!  



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