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County health department holds training for food handling

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Catherine W. Idzerda
March 28, 2012
— As an English major, I've spent plenty of time in food service.

I know about "King Lear" and cross contamination, "Middlemarch" and salmonella, "To the Lighthouse" and the importance of hand washing.


So when Tim Banwell, Rock County environmental health director, told me his department was hosting hands-on, food operator training, I immediately thought, "Bacteria grows most rapidly between 41 degrees and 135 degrees," and "‘Sister Carrie' is a metaphor for the American dream gone awry."


I bet Banwell that I could go through all 12 stations without making a mistake.


If I lost, I would drink a pitcher of coffee creamer that had been left at room temperature for an unspecified time.


If I won, he'd drink the creamer.


I lost.


Who knew you had to sterilize melons?


See how you do:


Q: Employees with a cold can continue to work. True or false?
A: True, but this is a trick question. The health department distinguishes between "exclusion" and "restriction."

A person with a serious illness, such as norovirus, is excluded from working. A person with a cold is restricted from working with exposed food, clean equipment, utensils and linens.


Q: Every open item must be date marked for disposal within how many days? Hint: God made the world in the same number of days. Also, the late Mrs. Geraldine Idzerda had the same number of children.
A: Seven—even if it's not growing anything.
Q: How do you prepare a melon?
A: Pre-cool melons to prevent bacteria growth. Wash and sterilize the washing and cutting area. Wash the melon in cold water and scrub with vegetable brush.

Sanitize the melon for two minutes in a bleach solution. Wash hands, place melon on sanitized cutting board and cut with a sanitized knife.


Then, get out of the restaurant business.


Q: You have seafood, eggs, prepared foods, steak, ground beef, raw pork and raw chicken. Your refrigerator has seven shelves. In what order, from top to bottom, should the food go?
A: In this order, top to bottom: prepared food, eggs, seafood, steak, hamburger, pork and chicken. Prepared food goes on top because you don't want the raw food dripping on it.

As for the rest of the food, its placement is based on its properly cooked temperature. Raw poultry needs to be cooked to 165 degrees, the highest of all of the foods, so it is at the bottom. If the seafood—145 degrees—drips on the chicken, cooking will eliminate any illnesses.


Q: It's OK to let thawing meat drip on to salad fixings. True or false?
A: False. Duh.
Q: The "Lookout for undercooked eggs" warning needs to be in how many places on a menu?
A: One. Make mine over easy, please.
Q: A customer wants a cracker with peanut butter. As long as you put on gloves, you can handle the cracker to apply the peanut butter. True or false?
A: False. Wash your hands first. Your dirty hands can make the gloves dirty. And why can't the customer spread his own peanut butter? This isn't the Ritz.
Q: It's OK to put the cleaning products on a shelf above the English major mixing the cole slaw in the industrial-sized slaw-making bin. True or false?
A: False. Toxic cleaning products need to be labeled and stored in a separate area from food.
Q: How many sinks does it take to hand wash dishes?
A: Three: Wash, rinse, sanitize, change major.
Q: Food will be fine as long as it's put directly into the fridge. True or false?
A: Food must go from 135 to 41 degrees in six hours. If you have a giant pot of soup or a recently cooked bear, it needs to be divided into smaller portions.
Q: Chicken bits on sticks can be left out for two hours. True or false?
A: True, but it's a trick question. In certain situations, a restaurant can apply for a variance for the temperature rules. For example, a buffet that leaves food out over a lunch hour might not be able to keep chicken at 135 degrees or above. The variance requires significantly more record keeping for the restaurant staff and is not granted very often.
Q: A pitcher of cream left on a table at room temperature for an unspecified period of time is not something you'd want to drink. True or false?
A: True. Hot food should be kept hot at 135 degrees or above. Cold food should be kept at 41 degrees or below.

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