People love cooking classes and food demonstrations. So why not use this interest to teach more than recipes or cooking techniques? You can teach food safety by using good practices.
Think of the class or demo as the “teachable moment”–that’s the time that is just right for someone to learn something. Think about your audience. Are you teaching a newly diagnosed diabetic, or a group of seniors, new cooks or maybe a pregnant women or parents of young children. All of these are people that should be more aware of food safety because they (or their family members) are more susceptible to a foodborne illness.
If you have guest chefs doing demonstrations for you – encourage good practices. Sometimes you don’t have control over what a “guest chef” does—a friend of mine cringed the whole time a “guest chef” cut vegetables without washing and taste tested from the pot. Be sure to review with them before you start the food handling practices you expect.
You know the saying “do as I say?” Well why don’t you make it “do as I do,” too? People mimic each other and will learn healthful techniques if they see you practicing what you preach.
Here are some basic ideas to keep in mind.
- Wash your hands before you cook. Make it obvious.
- Watch your clothing and jewelry. Avoid long sleeves, watches, rings, bracelets, and earrings.
- Avoid bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food and explain why you aren’t touching it.
- Use separate cutting boards for ready-to-eat and raw foods. Different colors are a plus.
- Keep foods refrigerated or in coolers until you’re ready to use them.
- Follow the “two-hour” rule. Don’t allow folks to eat food that has been sitting at room temperature for more than two hours.
- Wash fruits and vegetables. Again, make it obvious.
- Use a food thermometer. Demonstrate how to use it and encourage its use for all foods, not just meats.
- Don’t lick the beaters.
- Don’t put the tasting spoon in the food or stand over the food while tasting.
- Don’t lick your fingers.
- If you’re wearing gloves, use care to keep them clean. Change the gloves when you change tasks. Wash your hands before you put your gloves on.
- Don’t use your phone while you’re wearing gloves.
- Don’t play with your hair.
- If you’re serving samples, kept them at the proper temperature and make sure the serving utensils are clean.
- If you’re only partially cooking something due to time, do not allow people eat this food before it is thoroughly cooked.
I know you think some of these are simple and basic—but I think I’ve seen each of these done by a cooking teacher or food demonstrator.
If you’re passing out recipes—at a demo or any time—make sure they include food safety tips. Include appropriate cooking temperatures along with storage temps and how long you can keep the food.
Cheryle Jones Syracuse, MS
Professor Emeritus, The Ohio State University