Experts Share Risk Factors for Foodborne Illness and Discuss Why Food Safety Matters

Stephanie Stinson, cook, Food and Nutrition Services, Decatur Memorial Hospital.

September is National Food Safety Education Month. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there are about 48 million cases of foodborne illness in the United States each year.

At Memorial Health System, our five hospitals follow the FDA Food Code to protect and prevent our patients and patrons from developing a foodborne illness. Our local county departments of public health perform routine, unannounced food establishment inspections enforcing the FDA Food Code and ensuring all measures are in place to provide safe food service.

There are five major risk factors for foodborne illness, including improper holding temperatures, inadequate cooking, contaminated equipment, food from unsafe sources and poor personal hygiene. In addition, the FDA Food Code establishes five key ways restaurants, cafeterias and other food service settings can protect diners:

  • Demonstration of knowledge
  • Employee health controls
  • Controlling hands as a vehicle of contamination
  • Time and temperature parameters for controlling pathogens
  • Consumer advisory

Below, key food and nutrition personnel at our five MHS hospitals explain each aspect of safe food service.

Demonstration of Knowledge

Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital – Lynne Metz, director, Hospitality

“During a food inspection, leadership are expected to demonstrate knowledge of foodborne disease prevention and all requirements of the FDA Food Code, including colleague health and safety, cross-contamination, time/temperature control measures, food hazards consumption criteria and all other aspects of proper facility cleanliness.”

Employee Health Controls

Decatur Memorial Hospital – Kevin Mitchell, manager, Food and Nutrition Services

“Colleague health and education is important in stopping the spread of foodborne illness. Vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice and sore throat with fever are the most common symptoms reported from foodborne illness. We ask FNS colleagues not to report to work if they’re experiencing the above symptoms to help reduce the risk of spread.”

Controlling Hands as a Vehicle of Contamination

Memorial Health System – Emily Bailey, Director, Food and Nutrition Services

“When working with food, we wash our hands and exposed portions of our arms for at least 20 seconds in a sink specially designated for handwashing. We never touch ready-to-eat food items with our bare hands and do our best to avoid bare hand and arm contact with food items that haven’t been cooked yet.”

Time and Temperature Parameters for Controlling Pathogens

Passavant Area Hospital – Carolyn Clayton, director, Clinical Dietetics

“Cold foods should be held at 41F or less and hot foods should be held at 135F and above. Foods that leave these limits should not remain there for more than four hours. If a food passes the four-hour limit, it should be discarded.”

Consumer Advisory

Taylorville Memorial Hospital – Becky Morrow, director, Hospitality

“In order to eliminate pathogens causing foodborne illness, food safety guidelines suggest you should avoid eating any animal product that is raw, undercooked or not processed properly. Food service establishments are required to notify diners if any of these items are being served, as well as the increased risk of foodborne illness these foods pose.”

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