Food Worker Rules Aimed At Safety

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A new county ordinance is designed to assure food prepared outside the home is handled safely.

Dave Pote, director of the environmental health section of the Gila County Health and Community Services Division, made a presentation on the ordinance in Payson June 7 and will go before the board of supervisors June 24 for approval.

Pote said Gila and Pinal are the only the counties in Arizona that have no food safety training requirements. And nationally, 97 percent of all states, counties or municipalities require food safety training.

He said the importance of training is based on a number of facts:

  • Foodborne illness outbreaks cost $23 billion annually in legal fees.
  • Average cost of a food poisoning lawsuit is $70,000.
  • 76 million cases of foodborne illness are reported every year.
  • 325,000 hospitalizations result from food poisoning annually.
  • 5,000 deaths are attributed annually to foodborne illness.

"Food establishment owners are always responsible. Untrained employees may not recognize dangerous conditions," Pote said in his presentation.

The food worker training introduces employees to basic food safety requirements, targets core public health risks, includes a simple 20 question quiz to measure knowledge, and a certificate issued upon completion is valid for two years.

Pote said food worker training applies to anyone who handles food or drink, including kitchen staffs; workers in school cafeterias, long-term care homes, hospitals, jails and prisons; waiters; dishwashers; bartenders; food booth workers; and manufacturers.

There are two ways to complete the training: attend a regularly scheduled morning or afternoon class, which lasts for two hours, or complete a workbook and test anytime during regular office hours at the county health department. It costs $15 for the two-year certificate of training, the classes and workbook are available in English and Spanish, the certification is valid anywhere in Gila County, and the establishment where the food worker is employed receives a copy of the certificate.

The manager certification training provides professional training, education about the causes and prevention of foodborne illness and how to recognize and evaluate potential risks, and risk management techniques. The program will be in English, Spanish and many other languages.

The certificate for managers is valid for five years, it will cost between $60 and $100 to obtain, and it will be recognized anywhere in the U.S. The class is usually eight hours.

For more information, contact Pote at (928) 425-3231, extension 8517.

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