UF/IFAS Food Safety Training Program Certifies Food Managers

Amy Simonne ASimonne@ifas.ufl.edu, 352-392-1895 ext. 232
Rita Law-McCumber RLM@ifas.ufl.edu, 407-665-5553

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GAINESVILLE, Fla.—With 40 million tourists every year — and millions of year-round residents — Florida’s $18 billion restaurant industry is making food safety a top priority with the help of a University of Florida training program.

Food managers — those individuals who are responsible for receiving, storing, preparing, displaying and serving the public — must be nationally certified in food management, and food safety experts at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are helping train people for the certification.

“With several widely publicized cases of food poisoning across the nation, we must be very concerned about food safety,” said Amy Simonne, an assistant professor of food safety and quality.

“Each year, food-borne illnesses in the United States exceed $8.4 billion in medical costs, decreased production and lost wages. In 2002, there were 1,469 cases of food poisoning reported in Florida, and more than 50 percent of those cases were associated with restaurants,” she said.

“Anyone who has experienced food poisoning knows how debilitating the disease can be,” Simonne said. “Food poisoning can kill, especially if the person is very young, very old, or has an impaired immune system.”

Just as its name implies, the goal of the ServSafe® program is training food managers and other restaurant workers in the proper handling and preparation of foods to keep people safe, Simonne said.

The training course takes 8 hours, and a test can be administered the same day, she said. Since the program started in 2000, more than 3,000 managers have been certified. Designed by the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation, ServSafe is one of five national food protection manager certification programs available in the U.S., and it is widely accepted across the country.

Rita Law-McCumber, a UF/IFAS Seminole County extension agent in Sanford, said the county is one of 17 in the state that offers the ServSafe program. “We advertise the program on a highway billboard, and people call us on their cell phones to sign up.”

She said they encourage anyone who works in food service or manages people who prepare and serve food to others even if only for church suppers or for volunteer associations to take the course. Of the 35 who were trained and tested in Seminole County in 2003, 97 percent passed the certification exam with an average score of 84 out of 100.

“Although the majority of our participants are from restaurants and hotels, participants also come from school cafeterias, hospitals, daycare centers and nursing homes places that serve food to the public on a regular basis,” said Simonne.

She said the registration fee for an 8-hour ServSafe class is $70. Classes are taught in English and Spanish. Tests are also given in Chinese, French, Korean and Japanese, which is useful for personnel in restaurants that serve different national and regional cuisines. Simonne said professional associations and testing companies also offer the course and the certification test, but their fees tend to be higher.

The UF/IFAS Extension Service currently offers the course in Alachua, Bay, Brevard, Citrus, Collier, Duval, Hernando, Hillsborough, Lee, Marion, Martin, Miami-Dade, Pinellas, Putnam, Saint Johns, Seminole and Suwannee counties.

For more information, visit the following Web site: http://foodsafety.ifas.ufl.edu/



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Posted: May 5, 2004

Category: UF/IFAS

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