COLLEGE STATION — The Food Safety Team of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service has won the agency’s 2011 Superior Service Award in the team category.
The award is presented to individuals or teams who have demonstrated outstanding service to AgriLife Extension, an educational outreach agency of the Texas A&M University System.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, foodborne diseases cause nearly 48 million illnesses, 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths annually. In addition, more than half of all foodborne diseases are attributed to improper food handling in restaurants.
“Food safety education is a critical prevention component for reducing the risk of foodborne diseases, and AgriLife Extension addresses this need through its Food Protection Management program,” said Angela Burkham, AgriLife Extension regional program director for family and consumer sciences in Amarillo.
“The Food Safety Team, which was comprised of family and consumer sciences agents from our Rolling Plains area, did an outstanding job of serving the agency and Texas residents through their education and training efforts.”
The 2011 award-winning Food Safety Team consists of the following family and consumer science agents:
— Lynette Babcock, Palo Pinto County
— Alinda Cox, Jack County
— Tanya Davis, Wise County
— Janet Nelson, Stephens County
— Kathy Smith, Parker County
— Penny Warren, Young County
A major aspect of the team’s food protection management outreach is the Certified Food Manager program, which uses the “Food Safety, It’s Our Business” curriculum designed for food service employees and managers. Following each of these courses, a Certified Food Manager exam is administered and those who pass are given certification, Burkham said.
Each year the team met to plan food protection management trainings and exams in their area, trying to ensure a course is being offered in at least one of their counties during at least 10 months of the year.
The team covered 12 major topic areas in its training, including: safe handling of food; identifying foodborne illnesses and the food sources; preventing cross contamination; controlling time and temperature; understanding the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points; analyzing the need to clean and sanitize; and personal hygiene. A variety of creative learning experiences are employed by the agents to teach food safety.
The team also offered a second food-handler course in their training and instruction outreach — the “Food Safety, It’s in Your Hands” accredited course focused on cross-contamination reduction, time/temperature issues and personal hygiene. Classes were open to the public and also held on site for employees at restaurants, hospitals, nursing homes, food banks, churches and schools.
The team worked with area food-service establishments, health and human services organizations, local health inspectors and others to promote the courses, find guest speakers and to conduct food-handlers’ classes for their volunteers and employees.
The team also developed other regional activities and programs related to identifying bacteria, viruses and parasites and the proper method of storing refrigerated foods.
According to their award citation, as a collaborative group the Food Safety Team has conducted 53 “Food Safety, It’s Our Business” courses since 2007, resulting in educating 541 food service managers who work with more than 11,500 food service employees.
The award citation also stated that the certified Food Managers Course and Food Handlers Course have saved food service businesses more than $400,000 annually in the cost of educating managers and employees, In addition, the Food Protection Management program has helped businesses save millions of dollars in costs, as well as enhancing the reputation food establishments and teaching their food service managers and personnel the importance of food safety.