Non-profits and food safety

There is a lot more to cooking for crowds compared to cooking in your kitchen for just yourself.

Late winter is the time of year when churches and non-profit organizations start the soup suppers, fish fry’s and chili dinners to raise money for their causes. According to State of Michigan Food Law, someone on the premises needs to be trained in food safety, but what about the other volunteers who help so much with the fundraisers?

Foodborne illness does happen. If two or more people get ill from eating the same food, it’s considered an “outbreak.” Cooking for crowds is not the same thing as cooking a meal for your family. There are potentially hazardous foods that you may be preparing, and you should know what you need to do to keep them safe for the public. If your volunteers know what to do as far as personal hygiene and holding temperatures, you’ll be on your way to keeping your food safe.

Did you know there are three causes of foodborne illness?

  • Chemical hazards are when cleaning supplies, medicines or even sanitizers get into the food. Some metals can be a hazard when cooking acidic foods, and some wild mushrooms and shellfish can be toxic as well.
  • Physical hazards are those things that accidentally get left in food, like metal shavings from a can, a toothpick or even a Band-Aid. Insects can make their way into foods as well, and are considered a physical hazard.
  • Biological hazards are those things we normally hear about in the news when an outbreak of foodborne illness occurs. E. coli and Salmonella are probably the most well known, but there are also many other foodborne illnesses.

The biological hazards are microorganisms like bacteria and viruses, but also include parasites, molds, spores and yeasts. We can’t see them, and need to protect our foods from them by:

  • Keeping the premises and ourselves clean
  • Knowing the holding and cooking temperatures of foods
  • Avoiding cross-contamination
  • Cooling foods in a timely manner

There are many factors of which to be aware when preparing food, whether you are making sub sandwiches, the proverbial chili dinner, soup suppers or the very popular Lenten fish fry. Michigan State University Extension has many courses in food safety including a three hour course called Cooking for Crowds. This course is especially designed to help train volunteers and front line workers in food safety. If you would like more information on food safety for your church or non-profit, please call your local MSU Extension office, visit Cooking for Crowds , or call 888-MSUE4MI (888-678-3464).

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