At this year's conference, Hal King shared insights on how to reduce foodborne illness outbreaks.

Food-safety professionals, gathered for the Food Safety & Quality Assurance Executive Study Group conference in Orlando, Fla., shared their best food-safety training tips, effective food safety practices in the millennial era, and how to respond to an incident in a way that protects the guests, employees and the business.

Hal King, CEO and founder of Public Health Innovation LLC, the conference keynote, shared insights on how to incorporate intervention strategies into the day-to-day tasks of the operation to reduce foodborne illness outbreaks.

King told the audience that the reputational costs associated with a foodborne illness outbreak could drive a company out of business, and that preventing outbreaks is far less costly than managing the fallout after they occur. He also cited statistics that state that one instance of a foodborne illness outbreak at a restaurant could cost the business tens of thousands of dollars to fix; even more if a lawsuit ensues.

According to King, the top five causes or risk factors for foodborne illness outbreaks are:

  1. Food that’s produced or sourced without any food-safety controls to prevent contamination from E. coli and other pathogens.
     
  2. Poor personal hygiene habits, such as an employee infected with norovirus who keeps working and contaminates food and nonfood contact surfaces with his or her unwashed hands (gloved or bare).
     
  3. Inadequate cooking methods, such as not cooking ground meat to 155°F (for a minimum 15 seconds) to kill pathogens.
     
  4. Not adhering to proper holding times and temperatures for food. When foods are in the temperature danger zone, between 135°F to 41°F, pathogens grow at their fastest rates.
     
  5. Using contaminated equipment, such as food containers that held raw chicken, to store other foods before being properly cleaned and sanitized, or cutting ready-to-eat foods on a board just used to cut up raw chicken.

“We need new thinking, innovation and collaboration to prevent foodborne illness outbreaks in restaurants,” he said. “We are the ones who can do it best, test it, execute it and share it.”

The event also marked the presentation of the FS&QA group’s first Outstanding Food Safety Leader Award, given to Jorge Hernandez, The Wendy’s Company vice president of quality assurance, in recognition of the innovative work he is doing to keep customers, employees, and his company’s business safe.

Learn more about the Food Safety & Quality Assurance Executive Study Group