Food safety can be a lot to handle, requiring plenty of paperwork and diligence to ensure a kitchen complies with health regulations. It’s important to assess the structure of a food safety program—and to know what’s required, and what’s just good to have on hand.
In recent years, as Virginia Tech’s foodservice operations have expanded, so has its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points strategy. The Blacksburg, Va., university doubled its food safety staff to two employees, in addition to a training project coordinator and a manager to teach basic food safety classes to employees as well as a HAACP coordinator at each dining facility. “It’s grown so much and there are so many dining facilities; it’s a lot for one person to do,” says Ashley Foster, the administrative dietitian in charge of the program.
Foster oversees the HAACP logs, which ensure food is properly handled at each point in the kitchen. She conducts reviews of each dining facility—tracing a particular food item from its point of consumption back to receiving to make sure each step was properly handled and logged—at least twice a semester, plus once in the summer. “There’s always error, so that’s also a good educational moment for a staffer,” she says. “We fail them on that review, and then it’s a teachable moment.”
Though the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act hasn’t changed Virginia Tech’s operations (it mostly affects suppliers), Foster has been busy since Virginia adopted a new food code in the spring of 2016. Among the amendments to the new food code: Operators have to create a full HAACP plan for foods using reduced oxygen packaging methods, including identifying the potential hazards like listeria. To ensure compliance, each staff member must complete a Food Safety 100 course upon being hired, and evaluation drills are a regular part of training.
Not all paperwork is essential, but it might be useful anyway. Virginia Tech retains its HAACP logs for 60 days in case a student gets sick and delays reporting the illness. Foster and her team could still trace back whatever the student ate to find out where the lapse in food safety occurred, if any.
Virginia Tech’s health inspector has also been an asset to the university, giving Foster feedback on her HAACP plans and training employees on the ServSafe program in his spare time. “If there’s any question I have, we can ask him,” Foster says.