Organizations That Have In-House Food Services Would be Wise to Determine How Well Their Food Service Personnel Understand and Comply with Food Safety Procedures

Kingston, NH, September 30, 2011 --( Organizations that have in-house food services would be wise to determine how well their food service personnel understand and comply with food safety procedures, advises Tom Mac Dermott, president of Clarion Group, a dining and hospitality services consulting firm headquartered in Kingston, NH.

“A recent survey of food handlers in Chicago illustrates how little many food service workers and managers understand about how to keep their customers safe from foodborne illness,” he said.

The Chicago survey consisted of a true-false quiz of restaurant managers, chefs and hourly employees about basic safe handling practices for meat and poultry, conducted by Mark Dworkin, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois in Chicago. The average number score for managers was 77%. Only half of hourly employees scored 70% or better, according to Dworkin.

“The wrong responses cited in the study are scary,” Mac Dermott said. Fifty-six percent of survey respondents said it is safe to store raw meat above other foods in a refrigerator if it is wrapped in plastic. (It isn’t safe; blood and water can drip on products below, contaminating them.) Almost 37% of respondents didn’t know that ground beef that is not thoroughly cooked can cause bloody diarrhea.

“The single greatest source of food poisoning is handling with unwashed hands,” he added. Noroviruses, a leading cause of foodborne illnesses, are spread primarily through contaminated hands. Protective gloves are not a solution, unless employees are conscientious about changing them between tasks.

“The cornerstone of safe food handling is a program developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP),” Mac Dermott said. “Nearly all local and state health departments have adopted HACCP as their standard in restaurant and on-site food service inspections.”

A HACCP program requires an operator to identify all points in the food handling process where food is at risk from contamination or spoilage, from the supplier’s warehouse to the diner’s plate. Many states require that at least one certified safe food handler, usually the manager or chef, be on duty at all times when food is being prepared and served.

“Suppliers can be required to provide proof that they have a HACCP program in place and that they are sure the products they receive are safe,” Mac Dermott said. “At the on-site dining facility, risks include leaving foods outside the safe temperature zones (135°F or higher, or 40°F or lower for more than two hours and allowing foods to cross-contaminate through careless handling or using unclean utensils. A good HACCP system will ensure these and other risks are minimized.”

Managers and administrators who are responsible for their organizations’ food services should require that at least dining service managers, chefs and other lead food handlers are certified. The nationally-recognized food safety training program is ServSafe®, sponsored by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation, Mac Dermott advises.

“On-site managers and food service contractors should be held responsible to ensure all their food service personnel are fully training in food safety procedures and that a competent HACCP program is in place and enforced,” he said. “They should not only know what to do, but understand why they’re doing it.”


About Clarion Group:
Clarion Group is a consulting firm that advises companies, professional firms, colleges and universities, independent schools and institutions in the management, operation and improvement of their in-house employee/student dining, catering, conference, lodging and related hospitality services.

For information, contact:
Tom Mac Dermott, FCSI, President
Clarion Group
PO Box 158, Kingston, NH 03848-0158
603/642-8011 or
Clarion Group
Tom Mac Dermott