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Preventing foodborne illnesses

salmonellaOf all the liabilities that can derail a church’s food ministry, a foodborne illness is one of the quickest.

“All you need to do is Google ‘church foodborne illness’ to know that,” asserts Marcus White, director of hospitality at First Baptist Church Orlando and executive director of Global Association of Christian Hospitality Professionals (GACHP). “Even though church kitchens aren’t always required to be inspected, they’re certainly not exempt from lawsuits.” For this reason, risk-averse churches — beyond ensuring food handling training for all church workers, volunteer and paid — are also monitoring how food is stored.

“Commercial refrigeration units have to maintain certain range of temperature and have visible thermometers,” explains Eric MacInerney, principal and project architect at Heimsath Architects in Austin, TX. “And, food has to be dated and discarded appropriately. If the church youth, office or other programs are using the kitchen as well, sometimes this causes a lot of management issues.”

When it comes to proper food storage, Pamela Goldstein, vice president of operations at Nevada-based Humidity Control Systems — maker of CoolerKING, an all-natural mineral filter — knows all the ins and outs. This filter was designed solely to help create an ideal food storage environment.

“Once the filters are in place, a few good things happen,” she says. “Food stays fresher longer, it looks better, it smells better, and it tastes better.” Moreover, the filter neutralizes odors inside the cooler and reduces electrical consumption by as much as 20 percent, thereby extending the life of the equipment.

“Coolers are ideal environments for mold growth due to high moisture levels and temperature abuses resulting from frequent entries/exits and repair shut downs,” Goldstein explains. She cites USDA reports that show spoilage bacteria can, in some cases, double their numbers in as little as 20 minutes when excess moisture and improper temperatures are present.

“That’s why it’s important for churches operating commercial kitchens to take the necessary steps to maintain proper temperature and humidity levels inside their cooler — so they can reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses,” she adds. “Many churches organize dinners and meals for fundraising or to feed the homeless and need to make their budgets stretch. The last thing they want is to throw away food that has spoiled unnecessarily or to be spending more money than necessary to run their coolers.”

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