Agency provides resources, education for consumers, food service professionals
KERRVILLE – To support Food Safety Month, an expert from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is reminding Texans that the agency has educational resources and materials relating to both consumer and professional food safety.
According to the National Restaurant Association, September was designated National Food Safety Month in 1994 to increase awareness of the importance of food safety education and to reinforce proper food safety practices and procedures.Free resources and tips on various food safety topics can be found at http://www.foodsafetymonth.com.
“Food safety education is a critical prevention component for reducing the risk of foodborne diseases,”said Rebecca Dittmar, AgriLife Extension program specialist for Kerr County.
“On a consumer level, AgriLife Extension has family and consumer sciences agents and food safety teams comprised of these agents, which do an outstanding job of serving the agency and Texas residents through their community, and multi-county education and training efforts. On a professional or commercial level, AgriLife Extension helps address the need for proper food safety through its Food Protection Management program trainings.”
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, about half of all foodborne diseases are attributed to improper food handling in restaurants.
The Food Protection Management Program offered by AgriLife Extension offers food safety education for retail food establishments in Texas, Dittmar said. The program’s website, http://FoodSafety.tamu.edu, offers information on the Certified Professional Food Manager Training Program, Food Handlers Course and Cottage Food Handlers course.
“The Certified Food Manager program uses the ‘Food Safety, It’s Our Business’ curriculum designed for food service employees and managers,” Dittmar said. “Following each of these courses, a certified food manager exam is administered, and those who pass are given certification.”
According to Dittmar, the Food Protection Management Program has helped businesses save millions of dollars in costs, as well as enhancing the reputation of food establishments and teaching their food service managers and personnel the importance of food safety.
AgriLife Extension agents and teams also plan food protection management trainings and exams in their area, as well as provide resources and educational opportunities relating to consumer food safety in their county or as part of a multi-county effort, she said.
“Classes are promoted by mailing fliers to local food establishments and health care facilities, in local newspapers and by posting information on the AgriLife Extension website for the county as well as the Food Protection Management Program website.”
Dittmar said AgriLife Extension food safety training and education covers a variety of topic areas, including the safe handling of food; identifying foodborne illnesses and the food sources; preventing cross-contamination; controlling cooking time and temperature; understanding Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points; cleaning and sanitizing; and personal hygiene.
“A variety of creative learning experiences are employed by the agents to teach food safety,” Dittmar said. “They work with food-service establishments, health and human services organizations, local health inspectors and others to promote the courses, find guest speakers and conduct food safety classes.”
Dittmar said food safety is an important health issue and the practical information and training provided through the agency can help prevent foodborne illnesses and the human and financial costs associated with them.
Contact the local AgriLife Extension office to see what consumer and/or professional food safety resources or training is available.