Food Safety 101 (Part I)


One of the requirements for the Dietetics program this fall was to complete a ServSafe curriculum and exam to become ServSafe certified. ServSafe (accredited by the National Restaurant Assoc, NRA.) is a nationally recognized training resource in the food service field for  teaching elements of food safety.  Although, I didn’t agree with rolling this into another class (as it should be taken as a class on its own), the overall knowledge that I gained from it will be effective in my career as a dietitian.  I thought the exam for certification was hard, but I am happy to report that I was one of 2 in my class that received a 95%, much to my surprise :-)

This information is also very good for anyone who is the primary cook in their home, in knowing proper kitchen safety measures and how to minimize the risks for food-borne illness.  In this post, I will share a re-cap about some of my take-aways from this curriculum.

One of the purposes for ServSafe is to ensure that foodservice workers and affiliates are educated on food-borne illness prevention. What does this mean for the consumer? This should give you some peace of mind in knowing that certain restaurants you go to (in most cases), the managers and cooks have the ServSafe education/training and know-how in maintaining proper kitchen sanitation, enforcing appropriate personal hygiene, and are practicing food safety protocols so that you don’t end up with gastrointestinal issues or worse, end up in the ER from eating toxic/harmful food.

CDC (Centers for Disease Control) Facts:

The CDC has reported that each year, 1 in 6 people get sick from food-borne illnesses.  So, there is a high likelihood that someone you know has been or will be affected by this.  So, what are the culprits to food-borne illness? According to the NRA, unsafe food is the result of contamination, which are considered harmful substances in food. These can come from 3 categories:

  • Biological: Pathogens are the greatest threat to food safety. This category includes viruses, parasites, fungi, and bacteria. Certain plants, mushrooms, and seafood that carry harmful toxins are also in this group.
  • Chemical- These can contaminate food if used incorrectly. These can include cleaners, sanitizers, and polishes.
  • Physical- Foreign objects like metal shavings, staples, hair, bandages, dirt, and glass can get into food.

Biological contaminants are considered the most responsible for food-borne illness.

The Big 5 (highly infectious pathogens):

According to the FDA, these are the most reported pathogens that have caused outbreaks:

  • Shigella
  • Salmonella Typhi
  • Enterohemorrhagic and shiga toxin-producing E.coli
  • Hepatitis A
  • Norovirus

A person does not have to consume much of the pathogen to get sick. These pathogens are found in high numbers in an infected person and can be transferred to food. I will list the specific foods that these can be found in Food Safety Part II.

Top 5 Food-Handling Mistakes:

1. Purchasing food from unsafe sources

2. Failing to cook food correctly

3. Holding food at incorrect temps

4. Using contaminated equipment

5. Practicing poor personal hygiene
One of the top measures/actions for preventing food-borne illness is controlling time and temperature of foods.


Food likely to become Unsafe: TCS Food

Pathogens have been found to grow and multiply well in certain foods.  Proper time and temperature control is what limits their growth. That’s why they are called TCS food–foods requiring time & temp control for safety.

TCS Food Listing:

  • milk/dairy
  • meats & poultry
  • fish (including shellfish)
  • baked potatoes
  • Tofu
  • sliced melons, cut tomatoes, cut greens
  • shell eggs
  • heat-treated plant food (rice, beans, veggies)
  • sprouts and sprout seeds
  • untreated garlic and oil mixtures

What is FAT TOM?

This is an acronym for the 6 conditions that bacteria need to grow in food.

They consists of:

F -food






I will go into these in more detail in Food Safety Part II.

Be Well.

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3 thoughts on “Food Safety 101 (Part I)

  1. […] month, I shared some information on the topic of food safety (Food Safety Part I). I will expand a bit here on more specifics such as preventative measures and proper time and temp […]

  2. Mike Zickar December 18, 2013 at 1:58 pm Reply

    How long should I keep oil before throwing it out?

    • Bite Into Nutrition December 19, 2013 at 2:41 am Reply

      Hi Mike!
      Thanks for your question :-)
      In general, the rule of thumb regarding the shelf life of cooking oil is 6 months to 1 year. Of course that can vary depending on the type of oil and how processed/refined it is. Also, proper storage makes all the difference, which I discuss in my post . Storing oils (tightly capped) in a dark place (away from sunlight and stove) helps to keep it fresher. If it starts to smell rancid or evokes a bitter taste, then it’s time to toss it. The 4 enemies of olive oil are heat, light, air, and time which all contribute to rancidity.

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