Posted: May 15th, 2007 - 8:15am by Ben ChapmanTailgaters Sports Bar & Grill in South Bend IN, has faired as well in recent health inspections as the local college football team has in bowl games: not very good.
But, the head coach of the Fighting Irish football team and the manager of Tailgaters differ on placing blame. Whereas Miki Young, Tailgater's owner, suggested that the poor work habits of her staff led to the poor inspection results, Charlie Weis hasn't publicly blamed his Fighting Irish players for the breakdown in the Sugar Bowl against LSU. This quality, Weiss' responsibility for his team's performance would make him a pretty good restaurant manager.
When Weis and the Irish lose, thousands of fans may be disappointed, school officials may get angry and some staff may lose their jobs, but it's really not a big deal. When Miki's (or any other restaurant's) staff screw up it can be a really big deal: patrons get ill, and could die. The World Health Organization estimates that up to 30 per cent of citizens in so-called developed countries get sick from the food and water they consume each and every year. However, coaching is valued much more than food safety in North America. For example, to coach youth house league hockey in Ontario requires 16 hours of training. To open the doors behind the bench requires 4 hours of prevention services training. To coach kids on a travel team requires more. Shouldn't some minimal requirements be established for those running a restaurant or preparing food?
It's unclear how many illnesses can be traced to restaurants, but almost every week there is at least one restaurant-related outbreak reported in the news media somewhere in North America. Cross-contamination, handwashing and improper temperatures are all common themes in these outbreaks -- the very same infractions that restaurant operators and employees should be reminded of during training sessions, and are judged on during inspections. Some jurisdictions -- such as the city of Fort Worth, Texas -- place so much importance on teaching these lessons that they have mandatory training for all food handlers. Fort Worth requires food handler licenses and has invested in an infrastructure of training that demonstrates the city's commitment to public health. If they can do it why can't others? The Fort Worth Public Health Department's promotion of food safety garnered the the coveted Crumbine Consumer Protection Award for Excellence in Food Protection in 2004, the Super Bowl of food safety.
Running a restaurant is like running a sports team. The kitchen and the wait staff operate like offensive and defensive units. Each staff member has her own job, and each depends on another's performance, one bad move can lead to a foodborne illness. The inspectors are the referees, and they show up to make sure that everyone is playing by the rules.
Managers, like coaches, need to provide the tools, set examples, and foster the culture of the team, in this case, food safety. In the Chicago area in 2003 a Chili's restaurant was linked to over 160 confirmed cases of Salmonella. Health officials determined the Salmonella was due to employees who were unable to follow proper hand washing techniques as management had made a decision to keep the restaurant open for two days even though its water supply was interrupted. Hot water isn't needed for effective handwashing, it's just that people don't like washing their hands in cold water -- and in the absence of hot water Salmonella was passed on.
In April 2005, a 25-year veteran employee at the popular burger-joint, Peter’s Drive-In, in Calgary, AB, reported to work ill. Sixteen people got sick from E. coli O157:H7 after drinking marshmallow-flavored milkshakes that said worker had prepared – 15-year old Sara Burgess was in the hospital for two weeks and had to undergo dialysis treatment because of kidney failure due to infection. The then-owner of the restaurant asked rhetorically "what was I supposed to do?" A training program for restaurant operators might have been good(thanx for the pic Michelle).
But even ensuring that sick workers stay at home won’t always protect patrons from harmful bacteria. Some of the pathogens associated with foodborne illness, such as hepatitis A and Salmonella can be passed on with out symptoms. According to research published in the Journal of Food Protection last information, and a training regime that is supported by regulators, which focuses on food safety risk year, 12 per cent of staff associated with restaurant outbreaks in Minnesota tested positive for Salmonella, but only half reported feeling sick. Managers and food handlers need to know this factors could lead to reduced risk.
Miki Young told the St. Joseph County Health Department representatives at a hearing about her inspection record, "Everybody knows I mean business; If you don't take care of business, you'll be let go." In the words of Randy Bachman, food safety training can help food handlers and managers ensure that they are takin' care of business.