“Be Safe, Don’t Cross Contaminate:” September is National Food Safety Education Month

I always enjoy an adventure! Especially one of the culinary variety. Whether it’s oystering in the Chesapeake Bay or enjoying instant noodles boiled over a campfire in water from the stream we were hiking through in western New York; I’ll try just about anything once. Yet, as a culinary professional, I should have paid more attention to warning bells going off in my head.  I never thought about contracting hepatitis from the bushel of oysters we slurped. I never asked if the stream water was Giardia-free. Luckily, these culinary adventures did not land me in any serious gastric distress.

The reality is that, as consumers, we need to be more aware of where and how our food is sourced, stored, prepared and preserved. Also, as we prepare food for others, we must give full honor to the notion that the people we are about to feed are putting all of their faith and trust in our ability to nourish them safely.

To that end, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) has designated September as National Food Safety Education Month (NFSEM). This is an annual program to improve industry professionals’ knowledge of proper food handling and preparation. The activities developed for NFSEM (visit www.foodsafetymonth.com for full details) act as a booster shot for the NRA’s SERVSAFE program, which teaches the ins and outs of proper food handling, personal hygiene, hazard analysis and a little bit about our microbial foes.

Whereas the program is aimed at the food service industry, its lessons are equally applicable in the home. To drive this year’s theme of “Be Safe, Don’t Cross Contaminate,” the website opens with a video about safe backyard grilling; a good reminder as we close out the summer grilling season.

Whether you are cooking for your family, your customers or your weekend warrior buddies, there is a tremendous responsibility on your cutting board. Before you weasel your way out of KP duty, take a deep breath and visit www.foodsafetymonth.com to test your food safety expertise.