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Teaching proper food handling.

Proper food handling techniques in commercial kitchens are well known but not always followed. The author of this study engaged in participant observation research as a chef with a resort hotel chain for six months. He confirmed that one underlying factor for following proper food handling procedures was the teaching about and enforcement of all food handling rules by agency administration. The author found that too often administrators only gave "lip service" to the need to handle food properly. In this instance, cooks and servers were told (or watched a videotape) about proper food handling procedures, but they were never tested and never asked to either demonstrate or articulate proper food handling techniques.

The author suggests a need for proper training and ongoing follow-up. He reported that there should be time for discussion and questions about the procedures related to individual food handling stations. Without this connection to one's own space, the transfer of knowledge did not appear to occur. Common unsanitary practices observed by the author included the food preparer using the same towel to wipe his hands, the counter, the food slicer, and cooking utensils during one food preparation episode. In addition, he found every cook (and several hotel administrators) engaged in taste testing using their fingers - dipping fingers in the food, licking them clean, adding spices, dipping fingers again, and so on. He also found that food handlers did not have time for meal breaks and so ate and cooked at the same time - again mixing their licked fingers into restaurant food.

To address the concerns about sanitation in the kitchen, the author suggests following all proper food handling techniques as suggested by governmental agencies. All kitchen staff should know where to find supplies needed for tasting, cooking, and cleaning, and agency managers and administrators should serve as their own health inspectors, making unannounced visits and checks in the kitchen. He also emphasized the importance of agency administrators stating, following, and enforcing all food handling rules.

Implications for camp

Food and food preparation are concerns for almost every type of camp. Whether only snacks are provided or three meals a day are prepared, when food is handled, stored, or prepared, specific precautions should be taken to ensure the health and well-being of staff and campers. Administrators need to model desired behaviors for kitchen staff, ensure proper training, and test staff in all areas of food preparation. When food-borne illnesses strike campers, an epidemic of sorts can occur. Prevention is by far the best method of addressing these concerns. Administrators and directors take responsibility for the health and safety of campers and staff.

Walczak, D. (1997). The sanitation imperative, Cornell Quarterly: Hotel And Motel Administration, 38 (2), 68-73.
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Article Details
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Author:Jordan, Debra J.
Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:Mar 1, 1998
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