How We Make Sure Food is Safe to Eat and Businesses Thrive
September is National Preparedness Month, reminding us how to prepare for disasters or emergencies in our homes, businesses, and communities. It’s also Food Safety Education Month, which is a reminder of steps we can take to prevent foodborne illness, or food poisoning. These two awareness month designations might be more related than you think.
Our Public Health Sanitarians work year-round with the operators of food establishments throughout Dane County to educate them and their staff on proper food handling and handwashing to prevent foodborne illnesses. In the past year, we have dealt with several restaurant foodborne illness outbreaks, working closely with operators to track and determine sources of illness, make necessary systems corrections, and provide education to ensure the safety of the food that we eat so that the restaurant is able to continue to operate safely and successfully.
We have also seen two emergencies in the past year, in the form of a flood and an extended power outage. Our Sanitarians leapt into action in both instances, providing guidance and support to operators in regards to the safety of food, clean-up efforts, and steps businesses should take to recover and reopen.
While we have always provided food safety education and support to operators of restaurants, grocery stores and other food establishments, we continuously strive to improve upon and innovate in our efforts.
One addition to our efforts is developing guidance for operators in preparing their businesses for the unthinkable, such as the flooding that hit last August, which shut down some restaurants for upwards of a month. Through our Food Facts newsletter, which we send to operators regularly to keep them informed about food safety, we have been communicating the importance of being prepared for emergencies. Some examples include storing food high up to avoid contamination from floodwaters, creating agreements with other restaurants and facilities for temporary storage of foods during a power outage, and investing in generators for back-up power supply.
Providing food safety education to operators on their day-to-day operations, and including guidance on preparing their business for disasters or emergencies ensures that the food supply in Dane County is safe and healthy to eat, and that the businesses that provide that food continue to prosper and thrive.