Much to my resistance, I was influenced by my daughter and her friend to order a pizza this week. Since we were already out, we placed the order for ‘pick-up’ which ended up being a good news-bad news experience.
When we arrived at the restaurant, neither our pizza nor our salad was ready so we had the privilege of watching them make both. After cashing out a customer before us (handling filthy dollar bills and coins), one of the employees went to the salad area, and without any gloves or without washing her hands, dove her bare, contaminated hand into the lettuce and into a plastic container which was to be ‘my salad’. When I called attention of this incident, the worker commented, “Yes, you are all set, you already paid”. It became clear she did not understand the need to wash her hands prior to touching food . . . again, ‘my food’! When she finally understood what I was saying, she washed her hands and again, dove her now clean hands into the already contaminated bin of lettuce. If that wasn’t bad enough, on the other side of the pizzeria, was another employee making our pizza with his bare hands, having just opened their refrigerator, touching the counter and other areas that had been contaminated.
I know I have often heard “you don’t want to know what goes on in restaurants”, but I think we all do . . . or do we?
Thank goodness there is more attention being placed on food protection and training organizations such as IFPTI (International Food Protection Training Institute) coming on the scene. IFPTI is the nation’s only organization delivering career-spanning, certified food protection training to state, local, tribal and territorial food protection professionals. Working in partnership with the Association of Food and Drug Officials (AFDO), the IFPTI seeks to protect the public’s health in the creation of an integrated national food protection system that ensures the safety of the U.S. food supply. IFPTI training programs are delivered at the Kendall Center through a partnership with Western Michigan University. Initial funding for IFPTI has been provided by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths occur annually in the U.S. due to food pathogens, and about one of every four Americans will develop a foodborne illness each year.
Although organizations such as IFPTI will serve a great function in ensuring the safety of the food we consume, we cannot rely solely on entities such as this. One of the greatest impacts we can make is being more vigilant, as consumers, of not accepting what we see and rather influencing positive change with the food handlers.