FAQ: Food Handlers and Illness

By Joanne Ingram

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These tips for safe food handling were compiled from a wide range of sources, including federal and state government health agencies, medical and public health groups, consumer advocates and News21 reporting.

When should I stay home from work?

• Don’t come to work if you’re sick with vomiting or diarrhea.
• If you’re sick with a cough or cold, you can be at work but you should not be near exposed food, clean equipment, dishes, linens or utensils.

How do I avoid contamination?

• Wash your hands frequently, especially after using the restroom, coughing or sneezing.
• Change disposable gloves when your work is interrupted or when you move to another task.

What should I keep out of the kitchen?

• Jewelry can carry pathogens and fall into food so be sure to take it off before work.
• Keep your coat, purse and personal items away from food, dishes, linens and clean equipment.

Where should I store food?

• Store foods with higher cooking temperatures such as meat or chicken below foods with lower cooking temperatures like fish.
• Put raw meat, poultry and fish on lower refrigerator shelves so they don’t drip onto other foods.

What should I know about food temperatures?

• Check the refrigerator with an appliance thermometer to make sure it is 41 degrees or colder.
• Hazardous foods need to be kept cooler than 41 degrees or warmer than 140 degrees.

How can I prepare foods safely?

• Prepare raw meat, poultry and fish in a separate area and designate cutting boards for raw meat, poultry and fish only.
• Keep the food prep area free of any objects that could fall into it, such as staples or push pins from bulletin boards or broken glass.

What should I know about cleaning?

• Make sure food is adequately stored or covered when you clean the kitchen to prevent soaps, chemicals and dirt from getting into the food.
• All chemicals including soaps and sanitizers should be stored away from food or below any counters, shelves or other areas where food might be stored or prepared.

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