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Food-safety program offers local classes

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Restaurateurs from throughout the Southern Crescent will soon have the opportunity to take a nationally recognized course in Clayton County, which will help them meet standards recently imposed on the food-service industry by the Food and Drug Administration.

Starting in July, on a quarterly basis, the Clayton County Board of Health and the Clayton County/University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service will offer ServSafe, a recently mandated course for restaurant professionals around the country. The Board of Health, located at 1117 Battlecreek Road in Jonesboro, will serve as host, while the Extension Service will administer the class.

"It's not easy ... there's a lot of information that is really microbiology," said Kim Siebert, Extension Service director and ServSafe class administrator. "It's really a strong effort to be sure that restaurants, managers, and their employers know the importance of food safety."

As of December 2007, the FDA mandated that all food-service establishments in the country must have at least one certified food-safety manager on staff, in order to cut down on the spread of food-borne illnesses.

According to Robert Lewis, a restaurant inspector with the Clayton County Board of Health, prior establishments have two years to obtain a food-safety manager, while any new establishment much obtain one in 90 days.

The FDA "found that if there was somebody on site who was trained in food safety, it could cut back on risk factors," said Lewis. "The purpose of it is to be able to demonstrate knowledge of food safety during an inspection. A lot of the viruses and illnesses that can be transferred through food are taught in the food-safety class."

Chapters in the more than 200-page textbook cover topics such as: sanitation, hygiene, cross contamination, pathogens, and the proper temperatures in which to store, cook, cool, and serve different types of foods.

The certification training takes place over the course of two full days, with an aptitude test at the end of the class. A certified food-safety manager's certification lasts five years.

"It's substantial," said Siebert. "That's why we try to get the books to people ahead of time." The books are included in the cost of registration, she added.

Lewis said the class is "nationally recognized," so a restaurant owner in Georgia can use the certification in a different state.

"The class drastically improves all food establishments, because it allows the person in charge to get training that they would not otherwise know," said Lewis. "It lets them know what is being done wrong and how to correct it."

The next class to be offered will take place July 23 and 24. The registration deadline for the class is June 13. To register, call (770) 473-3945.