Every year, billions of dollars are spent by small and large restaurateurs, farmers, and food manufacturers due to foodborne illness. Most of these illnesses may be averted through good sanitation practices. Food service sanitation certification guarantees that employees in the food service industry are not only aware of the dangers of foodborne illnesses, but are committed to providing services through safe and sanitary practices.
To attain this certification, an individual will need to attend a food sanitation class. Classes can vary in length, duration, and location; some are completed in 2 to 3 days, while others take a week or even a month. A range of topics are usually covered, including the following:
Danger Zones: This indicates the temperature at which food is most likely to have bacteria form. Although the different places set the danger zone range slightly differently, most health experts say that it is somewhere between 40° to 140°F (4° to 60°C).
Holding Temperatures: Restaurants and food establishments prepare both hot and cold foods, and hold it before serving at a specific temperature. These numbers will vary according to local regulations, but most experts say hot holding temperatures should be above 135°F (57°C), and refrigeration or cold holding temperatures should be below 40°F (4°C).
Safe Serving Practices: A large component of food service sanitation certification is teaching good personal hygiene behaviors. Food workers are taught to wash their hands thoroughly and often, and to minimize bare hand contact. It is also continuously stressed that workers should not report for work when ill.
Cross Contamination: This refers to practices that can contaminate food accidentally. Examples include using a cutting board for multiple purposes without properly washing it in between or using a knife or slicer without properly sanitizing between items.
Identifying Hazardous Foods: Students are taught which foods are most likely to make people sick. Rice is one of the riskiest foods to hold, due to its susceptibility to botulism. Other hazardous foods include dairy, eggs, and meats.
Cooking Temperatures: To attain food service sanitation certification, students need to know required cooking temperatures for food. Again, this number will vary from location, but generally, poultry should have an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), beef and pork should reach 145°F (63°C), ground meat 155°F (68°C), and fish at 145°F (63°C).
In the US, government regulation of food exists at three levels: local, state, and federal. At the state and local level, health department inspectors and business regulators may share common duties or formulate joints standards of practice. At the federal level is the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All governments require some level of certification for food industry employees. In some cases, only the manager or proprietor needs to be certified, but in other states, all employees are required to receive basic food safety training.