Managing the Risk of Foodborne Illness
Food often plays a supporting role to the fellowship of nonprofit activities, but can soon upstage the event if not handled properly. No organization is exempt from this risk. The most severe cases of foodborne illnesses occur in people who are very old and the very young, immunosuppressed, and healthy but exposed to a very high dose of an organism. Whether serving potluck contributions transported from home or dishes prepared in the organization’s kitchen, take reasonable measures to ensure the safety of your workers. The first step is to accept that food illnesses do happen. The second step is to review policies and procedures that keep food safe with food preparers and servers.
The Four Cs of Safe Food Preparation
Bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses are controlled by four methods:
1. Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often.
- Bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and onto cutting boards, knives, sponges, counter tops and food.
- Wash hands with hot, soapy water for 20 seconds or use a commercial hand sanitizer.
- Wash after handling raw meat, poultry or fish, eating, drinking, smoking, using the restroom, sneezing or mopping the floor and when in doubt.
- Wash cutting boards, knives, utensils and countertops in hot soapy water (rinse thoroughly) after preparing each food item and before going on to the next.
- Clean equipment, including can openers, according to manufacturers’ instructions.
2. Compartmentalize: Don’t Cross Contaminate.
- Bacteria can spread from one food to another. Cross contamination is especially true with raw meat, poultry and fish.
- Separate raw meats, poultry and seafood and their juices from prepared food.
- Never place cooked food on a plate or other surface that has held raw meats, poultry or seafood.
- Use one cutting board for raw meats, poultry or seafood; another for slicing fresh fruits and vegetables; a third for prepared foods, such as baked goods.
3. Cook: Heat to proper temperature.
- A combination of temperature and time is required to kill harmful bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses.
- Do not eat or serve meat, poultry, fish or eggs that are raw or only partly cooked.
- Use a meat thermometer to ensure that meat and poultry are cooked through:
- Red meat — 145º F
- Ground beef — 160º F
- Poultry — 180º F.
- Fish until it is opaque and flakes with a fork.
- Eggs until the yolks and whites are firm.
4. Chill: Refrigerate promptly.
- Cold temperatures keep most harmful foodborne bacteria from growing and multiplying.
- Set the refrigerator at 40° F and the freezer at 0° F.
- Refrigerate or freeze perishables, prepared food and leftovers within 2 hours.
- Always defrost food in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave. Never use the kitchen counter. Only marinate food in the refrigerator.
- Quick-chill large amounts of leftovers by dividing between small, shallow containers.
- Remove leftover stuffing from cooked poultry or meat and refrigerate in a separate container.
- Do not pack the refrigerator. Cool air must circulate to maintain proper temperature.
- Check temperature with appliance thermometer.
Provide oversight of kitchen and serving staff. Select a long-term volunteer or an employee with training or expertise in quantity food preparation and service.
- Bring sauces, soups and gravies to a rolling boil
- Heat other leftovers thoroughly to 165° F.
- Cover, stir and rotate foods in a microwave to ensure an even temperature of 165° F throughout.
- Keep hot food hot (140°or higher) and cold foods cold (40° or lower).
- Don’t let foods sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
- Use tongs, forks and spoons, deli paper, disposable gloves, waxed paper, napkins, or spatulas, not bare hands, to serve food.
- Supply each self-serve dish on a buffet line with the appropriate utensil.
Hiring a Caterer
A licensed caterer is hired to prepare and serve food at the nonprofit or a nonprofit-sponsored event assumes the responsibility of safe food preparation.
It is imperative that food preparation be conducted in accordance with local sanitary codes and proper food preparation practices. These may include:
- Do not let people work around food if they have any cuts, skin infections, or contagious ailment, e.g., flu, conjunctivitis, hepatitis, etc.
- Ensure that food preparers keep fingernails trimmed and hands frequently washed.
- Clean clothing should be worn and long hair kept under a hat or hairnet. Gloves should be worn while preparing and serving food.
- Smoking and eating should be done only in designated areas.
- Inspect food for freshness before use or storage.
- During storage, ensure that all food containers are closed and labeled.
- Food should be stored at 40° F or colder, or as otherwise indicated on the label.
- Frozen food must be kept at 0° F or below.
- Ensure that dishes are properly cleaned and sanitized.
- Wash raw food thoroughly.
- Wash and sanitize utensils and cutting boards between uses.
- Thaw frozen foods properly.
- Cook foods thoroughly.
- Reheat leftover foods rapidly to at least 165°E.
- When serving, keep hot foods hot, cold foods cold.
- Don’t reuse unwrapped food.
- Prepare food as close to serving time as possible.
- Clean mixers, fryers, ovens, and other such equipment regularly and thoroughly.
- Keep floors and walls properly clean and sanitary.
Food Preparation & Sanitation
- Food should be handled, cooked, served and stored to prevent contamination.
- Food service workers should wash hands thoroughly before work, after using the toilet, after handling garbage or dirty dishes, after touching hair or face, and after using the telephone.