FAQ

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FAQ

It is best to handle foods that require no further cooking with suitable utensils or gloves rather than bare hands. However, there is no current state or local laws that requires this. The food code states that food handlers "shall avoid contact with their bare hands." It allows contact of these foods if the employee follows the proper hand washing procedures outlined in the food code.

Restaurant inspection reports are open records. They may be viewed online or a copy can obtained at the James O. Goodwin Health Center at 5051 S 129th E Ave in Tulsa.

Foods offered for sale to the general public must be prepared in a licensed, commercial-type kitchen. The facility must be completely separate from any living or private quarters. Commercial grade equipment is needed which, depending on the foods prepared, may include refrigerators, hot food units, dish-washing equipment, hand-washing sinks, and mop sinks. Construction materials for the floors, walls and ceilings of the food preparation area and the restrooms are required to meet certain standards as well as certain lighting requirements. Licenses are required from the Oklahoma State Department of Health and some cities require a separate license also. The Tulsa Food Code is available on our web site which goes into more detail on food establishment requirements.

Hot foods should be refrigerated as soon as possible within two hours after cooking. Don't keep the food if it's been standing out for more than two hours. Don't taste test it, either. Even a small amount of contaminated food can cause illness.

Date leftovers so they can be used within a safe time. Generally, they remain safe when properly refrigerated for three to five days. If in doubt, throw it out.

Refrigerators should stay at 41ºF (5ºC) or less. A temperature of 41ºF (5ºC) or less is important because it slows the growth of most bacteria. The temperature won't kill the bacteria, but it will keep them from multiplying. The fewer there are, the less likely you are to get sick from them.

Freezing at 0ºF (minus 18ºC) or less stops bacterial growth (although it won't kill all bacteria already present.)

The following table is a rundown of storage guidelines for some of the foods that are regulars on America's dinner tables. http://www.fightbac.org/doubt.cfm

Freezer burn is a food-quality issue, not a food safety issue. It appears as grayish-brown leathery spots on frozen food. It occurs when air reaches the food's surface and dries out the product. This can happen when food is not securely wrapped in air-tight packaging. Color changes result from chemical changes in the food's pigment. Although undesirable, freezer burn does not make the food unsafe. Cut away these areas either before or after cooking the food. When freezing food in plastic bags, push all the air out before sealing.

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), food can be safe forever from a foodborne-illness standpoint - but if shelf-stable food has been on the shelf for an extended period of time, you might not want to eat it because the quality may not be good. In this case, the "best if used by" date on the label of the product is an indication whether or not the quality of the food is good. Food quality deals with taste, texture, and nutritional value of food. For example, freezer burn, rancidity, and food spoilage are all quality-related issues. The FDA does not require an expiration date for shelf-stable foods, since the storage time for these foods is a quality issue, not a food safety concern.

Many health experts agree that using a process called irradiation can be an effective way to help reduce food-borne hazards and ensure that harmful organisms are not in the foods we buy. During irradiation, foods are exposed briefly to a radiant energy source such as gamma rays or electron beams within a shielded facility. Irradiation is not a substitute for proper food manufacturing and handling procedures. But the process, especially when used to treat meat and poultry products, can kill harmful bacteria, greatly reducing potential hazards.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved irradiation of meat and poultry and allows its use for a variety of other foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables, and spices. The agency determined that the process is safe and effective in decreasing or eliminating harmful bacteria. Irradiation also reduces spoilage bacteria, insects and parasites, and in certain fruits and vegetables it inhibits sprouting and delays ripening. For example, irradiated strawberries stay unspoiled up to three weeks, versus three to five days for untreated berries.

Food irradiation is allowed in nearly 40 countries and is endorsed by the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and many other organizations.

Irradiation does not make foods radioactive, just as an airport luggage scanner does not make luggage radioactive. Nor does it cause harmful chemical changes. The process may cause a small loss of nutrients but no more so than with other processing methods such as cooking, canning, or heat pasteurization. Federal rules require irradiated foods to be labeled as such to distinguish them from non-irradiated foods.

Food cannot be irradiated unless the Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) approves it. The FDA has evaluated irradiation safety for 40 years and found the process safe and effective for many foods. Health experts also say that in addition to reducing E.coli O157:H7 contamination, irradiation can help control the potentially harmful bacteria Salmonella and Campylobacter, two chief causes of foodborne illness.

Irradiation does not make food radioactive, compromise nutrional quality, or noticeably change the taste, texture, or appearance of food, as long as it's applied properly to a suitable product. It's important to note that irradiation cannot be used with all foods. For example, it causes undesirable flavor changes in dairy products and it causes tissue softening in some fruits, such as peaches and nectarines.

One of the critical factors in fighting food-borne illness is temperature. Bacteria grow slowly at low temperatures and multiply rapidly at mid-range temperatures. To be safe, a product must be cooked to an internal temperature high enough to destroy harmful bacteria. Using a thermometer is a reliable way to ensure that food has reached the proper temperature. However, to be effective, the thermometers must be used properly and calibrated correctly. If the thermometer is inserted incorrectly, or placed in the wrong area, the reading may not accurately reflect the internal temperature of the product. In general, the thermometer should be place in the thickest part of the food, away from bone, fat or gristle. Read the manufacturer's instructions on how to calibrate (check the accuracy of) the thermometer. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, temperature is the only way to guage whether food is sufficiently cooked. USDA research reveals that the 'color test' can give consumers misleading information about the safety of the foods they are preparing, since cooked color varies considerably. For example, freezing and thawing may influence a meat's tendency to brown prematurely.

Example Problems:

Your hot dog has a strip of plastic inside.
The canned chili contains a metal washer.
You think a restaurant dinner made you ill.
A piece of glass was in your box of cereal.
What can you do?
FOR HELP WITH MEAT, POULTRY AND EGG PRODUCTS: Call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1 (800) 535-4555.

FOR HELP WITH RESTAURANT FOOD PROBLEMS: Call the Health Department in your city, county or state. In Tulsa county, call (918) 595-4300.

FOR HELP WITH NON-MEAT FOOD PRODUCTS: For complaints about food products which do not contain meat or poultry - such as cereal - call or write to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Check your local phone book under U.S. Government, Health and Human Services, to find an FDA office in your area. The FDA's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition can be reached at 1 (888) 723-3366.

In order for the USDA or FDA to investigate a problem, you should have:

the original container or packaging;
the foreign object (the plastic strip or metal washer, for example); and
any uneaten portion of the food (refrigerate or freeze it).
Information you should be ready to tell the Hotline on the phone includes:

your name, address and phone number;
the brand name, product name and manufacturer of the product;
the size and package type;
can or package codes (not UPC bar codes) and dates;
establishment number (EST) usually found in the circle or shield near the "USDA passed and inspected" phrase; (if meat, poultry, or egg product)
name and location of store and date you purchased the product.
You can complain to the store or the product's manufacturer if you don't choose to make a formal complaint to the USDA or FDA.

IF YOU THINK YOU ARE ILL, SEE A PHYSICIAN

If an injury or illness allegedly resulted from use of a meat or poultry product, you will also need to tell the Hotline staff about the type, symptoms, time of occurrence and name of attending health professional (if applicable).
If an injury or illness allegedly resulted from restaurant food, call your State or local Health Department.
If an injury or illness allegedly resulted from non-meat food products, call or write to the FDA.
THE BOTTOM LINE: If you sense there's a problem with any food product, don't consume it. "When in doubt, throw it out."

Yes, but facilities are required to notify you in an effective manner that consuming an undercooked animal product can be hazardous to your health. This consumer advisory consists of two perimeters. First, a disclosure of what items can be served in an undercooked or raw form, followed by a reminder that consuming food that is undercooked can result in foodborne illness.

Any person, who handles, prepared, serves, sells or gives away food for consumption by persons other than his or her immediate family. The requirement applies to all food workers including persons washing or bussing dishes, serving foods, and preparing drinks, but not to a hostess merely seating guests and supply menus. Additionally, the requirement does not apply to establishments serving all pre-packaged foods.

Tulsa does have reciprocity agreement with some surrounding counties to accept their food handler training, but not their cards. Workers from Rogers, Creek, Osage, Wagoner or Pawnee County should bring their card to the Main Food Handler Office at 4616 E. 15th Street in Tulsa along with the $10 fee to have a Tulsa County card made. The card will be valid through the date on the original card.

YES! Hand sanitizers do not replace proper handwashing. Although hand sanitizers can effectively kill some germs on your hands, they do little to reduce the surface tension between your skin and dirt/grease/germs. The sanitizer only has an effect on the outer layer of film on your hands. Some bad germs are still present. When washing hands, first wet your hands with warm water, lather with soap for at least 20 seconds, rinse with warm water, then dry with a clean towel.

Money, being dry, carries fewer bacteria than moist substances and areas. However, employees must wash their hands when changing duties, especially after doing anything non-food related—including touching money—before going back to handling food.

No documentation is required to enroll in a food handler class. However, if you have a driver's license, Social Security card or other form of identification, the THD Food Handler Office may refer to it to assure proper spelling of your name.

The symptoms of food poisoning can vary greatly depending on the organism(s) causing the illness. There are actually two types of food poisoning: intoxication and infection.
With intoxication, the first or most predominate symptoms are upper gastrointestinal tract symptoms (nausea, vomiting) which occur shortly after ingestion of the contaminated food (2-24 hours).

With infection, the first or most predominate symptoms are lower gastrointestinal tract symptoms (abdominal cramps, diarrhea) which occur longer (6-36 hours up to several days) after ingestion. Other symptoms associated with food poisoning can include fever, chills, malaise, headache, and bloody diarrhea. Some organisms may cause neurological or allergic symptoms such as dizziness, blurred vision, puffiness, tingling, itching skin, burning throat and muscle aches.

In order to confirm food poisoning a doctor must run tests on blood, stool, and/or vomit to detect the presence of the organism. However, with many of the intoxication type of illnesses, the organism is not detectable. Food samples may also be checked to find the organism.