From Under the Hairnet
From Under the Hairnet
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From Under the Hairnet

Adult Learning for Auditors

by Greg Harbaugh on 12/19/12


Adults learn in many ways.  Visual cues are still important. They were when I wrote this article in a previous newsletter, so they probably still are. Repetition is another process.  It is our role to not only conduct accurate and actionable Food Safety Audits, but to also model proper behavior to the customer’s associates.  With this in mind, upon entering any fresh department, we should demonstrate proper hand washing technique using warm water and soap for a minimum of 20 seconds.  We can’t expect the store associates to do the right things, if we aren’t providing a good example. 




Auditing Tips;


  • Be thorough, but efficient
    • Concentrate on the important stuff
      • Personal Hygiene
        • Proper hand washing
      • Cross Contamination
        • Raw / Ready to Eat
        • Proper Sanitation
      • Temperature Control
        • Temp Logs
        • Case Temps
    • Calibration is key.
      • What are we missing?
        • Are we thoroughly checking all the logs?
        • Are we checking temps?
        • Are we checking dates?
        • Would this audit result be the same, if your supervisor had completed it?

Employee Health

by Greg Harbaugh on 09/26/12


Employee Health


It is getting to be that time of year when people start getting sick from the common Cold, the Flu, Strep Throat, or some other illness. But Employee Illness is a year long concern with regards to Food Safety. Some illnesses RESTRICT an associate from working around food, and others EXCLUDE them. Below are some important points to remember


-         Associates with the following symptoms should be restricted from working around food and should report the symptoms to the Person in Charge (PIC).

o   Sore throat with Fever

o   Fever

o   Vomiting

o   Diarrhea

o   Jaundice (yellow-ish skin color)

o   Lesion/Burn/Cut containing pus (requires double covering or bandage)


o   Associates with the following illnesses should be excluded from work and should report their illness to the Person in Charge ( PIC).

o   Hepatitis A virus

o   E.coli

o   Shigella

o   Salmonella typhimurium

o   Norovirus


When an employee reports to work ill, they can easily spread bacteria and viruses to food and cause an outbreak of illness.  The person in charge should adopt an approach that employees with diarrhea and flu-like symptoms not work with or around food.  The employee has the equal responsibility to inform the person in charge if he or she is ill.


Employees who are sick or have a communicable disease shall not handle food, as this practice can promote the spread of food borne illnesses.


Be safe, wash your hands often, and stay healthy!!

Restroom Cleanliness as an indicator.

by Greg Harbaugh on 09/18/12

An indicator of what?  How about food quality, kitchen cleanliness, staff hygiene, and most of all Food Safety.

All restaurants have some kind of a Health Department score posted prominently for all interested patrons to view.  Do you feel safe when you see an A?  How about when you see a low A, perhaps a 91? Do you still sit down at your table with confidence even though the table might be a little bit sticky?  What does that A mean to you when you check the date and see that the eatery was last evaluated 9 months ago?  It's probably not quite as comfortable a stroll to your table now is it?

Health inspections or third party audits are only a snap shot in time and in many cases are not a true indicator of the Food Safety program being implemented in the establishment.  How do I know that this is not going to be a game of tag with Salmonella or Norovirus?  The answer is; you don't, but you can do some checking yourself.

As soon as you are seated, go to the restroom to wash your hands properly and check the place out.  If the restroom isn't clean, LEAVE.  It is an indicator of the overall shape of the place.

What is your overall impression of the restroom?

Does it smell good?

Is the trash can over flowing?

Are there paper towels?

Is there warm water?

Is there soap?

Are the floors clean?

Is there toilet tissue?

If these questions aren't answered to your satisfaction; LEAVE.

Things aren't going to get any better.

Would you eat something you found in the dirt in some strange field?

by Greg Harbaugh on 08/18/12

I didn't think so, but too many people do it everyday, especially in the summer.  Salmonella and E-coli are both found on the ground along with your favorite melons.  Not only does your melon live there during the growing season, but they share this environment with bunny rabbits, deer, and humans who may not have the best hygiene practices.  The waste from the aforementioned culprits get in the soil and on to the surface of the melon. Houston, we have a problem!!!

But these bugs are on the outside of the melon, I don't eat the rind. Think about how you get to the good stuff.  You hopefully, you use a clean knife and cut into it. When you plunge the blade into the melon you drag any contaminant on the skin into the moist inner goodness.  You now have a potentially hazardous food that's been infected.

Remedies:  Clean the melon well with a veggie wash if available, but at least with running water and a bristled brush to remove the dirt and residue from the surface.  After cutting store the melon in the refrigerator to inhibit bacterial growth.  Never eat a melon that has been cracked.

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Cow Petting followup

by Greg Harbaugh on 08/16/12

Here is a followup to my post last week about cow petting and e-coli outbreaks at the NC State Fair.  It's not just the Cow House that's the culprit.  Petting Zoo education is a must.  Barfblog had a great post about this today.  Check it out.

State Fair

by Greg Harbaugh on 08/16/12

In my comments last week about the need for more controls at the NC State Fair to avoid another e-coli outbreak I ended my remarks by mentioning how about petting zoos.  Great minds think alike.  Attached is today's Barfblog post.  Great stuff.

Protecting Your Brand

by Greg Harbaugh on 08/13/12

An article entitled USDA plays chicken with food safety was published in the Atlanta Journal - Constitution and reprinted in the Raleigh News and Observer yesterday.  It talks about the USDA removing inspectors from poultry processing plants and having the facilities police themselves. The fear mongers among us are turning to vegetarians because the 80 pounds of  poultry consumed per capita annually will now be feces laden.

The USDA wants to reallocate resources to more directly work on improving overall food safety in the poultry industry.

I completely agree with the USDA's thinking.  They need to work on the big picture and let individual companies protect their brand.  The naysayers think that because the feds will be leaving plants means that we will revert to child labor filled sweat shops operating knee deep in chicken excrement.  Do you think that Frank Perdue's ghost would allow that?  I think not.  One food borne illness traced to unclean slaughtering  conditions will kill the brand and the companies' legacy.

Police yourself with your own people or better yet hire a good consultant.  A bit self serving I know, but a guy has to eat you know.

Don't pet the cows.

by Greg Harbaugh on 08/10/12

This has nothing to do with Chick Fil A, but with the North Carolina State Fair. In an effort to avoid an E-coli outbreak similar to last years, Secretary of Agriculture Steve Troxler has implored all fair visitors to "warsh" your hands or better said wash your hands frequently.  In addition to the hand washing request visitors will no longer be able to have close contact with many of the animals.  You will no longer be allowed to walk through the pens in the "Cow House" as my son used to call the Jim Graham Building.  That's too bad, because avoiding stepping on cow pies has always been one of my favorite activities.

It's also a shame that this favorite part of the fair for many will be diminished because folks last year failed to wash their hands after viewing the livestock and before eating.  Don't fear however, there is always the petting zoo.

North Carolina has finally adopted the 2009Food Code

by Greg Harbaugh on 08/08/12

North Carolina has finally updated their food handling regulations.  Up until now the Old North State has been using the 1976 FDA Food Code as their frame work. 

 A few things have changed since then.  I've gotten married, had 3 children who have all graduated from college, pushed them out of the nest and into the working working world. People don't remember Viet Nam, 55 cent gasoline, or tolerating cigarette smoking.

It's about time that we quit handling ready to eat food with bare hands.  Food Safety training will now be required for food service establishments.  I always thought that bonus points on a restaurant inspection for a certificate was ridiculous.


We're making strides.

NC restaurant inspections are misleading.

by Greg Harbaugh on 01/26/12

Bonus points are given for someone on staff passing Serve Safe.  Based upon what could show up on an inspection of an "A" graded foodservice establishment could put a big X on the door as far as my family is concerned.  The problem is that unless you read the inspection report before packing the family in the car, you'll never know if it's a few minor sanitation violations or that the chicken is being held at 79 degrees. 

If there is a critical violation found it should be corrected immediately and the location should be re-inspected at the owner's expense within 7 days.

Third Party Audting

by Greg Harbaugh on 10/20/11

Third Party auditing is only beneficial if the audits are comprehensive, accurate, and thorough.  Too often the auditor does not want to make waves with the customer and will hold back poor audit results.  Many times the location's audit score is included in the management scorecard and the result impacts bonus.  Therefore more pressure is brought to bear upon the auditor to lighten up the score.  This does no good for anyone especially the customer. 

Upper management monitoring store results are not seeing an accurate representation of store conditions and therefore are not aware of potentially hazardous conditions.  Patrons are at risk and management is clueless.

The auditing firm is at fault as well as the store management for pressuring the auditor for a more favorable score. 

You must insist on accurate actionable audits with documented follow up.

Food Safety Training Bonus

by Greg Harbaugh on 09/22/11

Why should the state of NC give bonus points on restaurant inspection scores when the store scores below 90?  This gives the patron a false sense of security thinking that the store had an "A" ranking, when it earned a "B".  I just read a report for a Chinese restaurant with more issues than I could count that scored an 88 but received a 90 because someone passed ServeSafe.  Obviously that person wasn't present when they were caught storing raw poultry over ready to eat foods.

Taking Food Safety classes are important, but Bonus Points defeat the purpose of restaurant inspections.

Food Safety Classes Important or a waste of money?

by Greg Harbaugh on 11/16/10

Most restaurant chains or food service operations understand the value of ServeSafe or some kind of food safety certification.  The problem is that they typically only have management take the course.  They hope that the trickle down theory of food safety works in their establishment.  It doesn't!!!!! 

A great example was shared with me this afternoon about an employee restocking a buffet line with some kind of fried goodness, when he decided that it was time for a snack.  He grabbed a small piece of gizzard and discreetly popped it in his mouth.  What could be wrong with that?  He had gloves on.  Everyone is good.  He got his tasty treat; his gloved hands were protected; and hardly any saliva dripped into the food when he put additional fried goodness into the tray. Can you say Cross Contamination? 

Lesson:  Everyone handling food needs to be trained in Food Safety.

Health Inspection Scores can be Misleading

by Greg Harbaugh on 05/20/10

During a recent restaurant inspection I entered the facility and noticed the Health Inspection Grade A with a score of 102.  It was a perfect score with 2 bonus points management passing their ServSafe Manager certification exam. 

As a patron you would feel very comfortable eating in this establishment.  What if you were told that no one was washing their hands in this eatery?  Would you still be comfortable eating that BLT?  Upon further inspection one would notice that there were no hand towels at any of the hand wash sinks in the store.  Only the public restrooms had some way to dry hands.  There was a stack of napkins next to the sink.  In the back there was nothing.  When the manager was questioned, he responded that the order was cut. 

How about a quick trip to the local mega-mart for a roll or two of Bounty?  

Hand Sanitizers are not effective against Norovirus

by Greg Harbaugh on 03/12/10

Proper hand washing as described in the entry below is the best way to protect against norovirus.  Alcohol based hand sanitizers don't kill the virus and therefore do nothing but move the bug around on your hands.  Hand washing's  mechanical scrubbing action and rinse step effectively remove the pests and wash them away down the drain.

It's been mentioned before on this site that there is no good replacement for proper hand washing.  Hand washing with a good quality soap with added moisturizer which prevents drying will  protect against food borne illness.