The Belleville Intelligencer reports that local health unit offers a food-handling course and while it is tailor made for those in the food business, anyone who dons an apron or chef’s hat should consider the program.
Most people are aware that a barbecue fueled by propane or natural gas can have its dangerous side. But the peril can come from other sources, such as those raw hamburger patties sitting patiently beside the barbecue, queuing up for the grill.
Cooks should be careful, because if the meat is left outside too long, nasty little bacteria like salmonella can also be whetting their appetite for a burger, too.
The result is food poisoning, with the symptoms varying between two common illnesses — foodborne infection and foodborne intoxication.
Each year, more than 7.6 million Canadians become ill from foodborne disease, the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit reports.
Foodborne infection is caused by eating a sufficient number of bacteria to cause illness. It takes six to 72 hours for the symptoms — nausea, cramps and diarrhea — to show up.
Foodborne intoxication is caused by bacteria that produce a chemical called a toxin. The symptoms come on like a freight train and within two to four hours can derail the unfortunate diner with severe nausea, cramps, vomiting and diarrhea, even prostration and lowered body temperature and lowered blood pressure.
It doesn’t sound yummy, now does it?
Of course, there are other avenues open to food-related illnesses besides leaving edibles unrefrigerated for too long, such as cross contamination — using utensils for chicken or meat, leaving the utensils out and then reusing them for, say, mixing a salad.
In the days before cause and effect of foodborne illness was understood, people returned from the church picnic, where food sat out on tables for hours, and later took sick.
Once again, the bacteria struck, but nobody realized the cause. Now, coolers are the order of the day.
And there are measures in place to protect diners, particularly with eating out a common practice these days.
The health unit does regular inspections of places that prepare and serve food, such as restaurants, nursing homes and school cafeterias. These so-called high-risk establishments are visited at least three times a year. Medium-risk places, including lower volume eateries such as pizzerias, are checked twice a year. Visits to low-risk like grocery stores are done annually.
If a complaint is received by the health unit, the establishments get extra inspections.
The health unit also ensures that those serving food on grills at events such as sidewalk sales, charity barbecues and the Waterfront festival meet regulations to protect the public from food poisoning.
There is another service offered by the health unit.
Several times over the course of a year, a one-day food handling program is conducted. The health unit likes to have at least one person who has taken the course in every place that serves food to the public. The cost for the six-hour course is $25.
However, you don’t have to work in a food establishment to take the course. Individuals are welcome, and it is a program worth considering.
It may just be the best course you will ever take to make sure you are the only one tucking into that hamburger.