"Better Safe Than Sorry" Message of Foodborne Illness Workshop for Nonprofits

Posted: December 7, 2011

Chestnut Ridge Fire Company in Cook Township hosted 21 nonprofit volunteers eager to learn how to safely prepare and serve food for the masses.


The five-hour workshop, called "Cooking For Crowds: A Volunteers' Guide To Safe Food Handling," was conducted by Dori Campbell, Nutrition, Health and Food Safety Extension Educator.

Attending were members of the fire company, Boy Scouts and four local churches. But the tips offered pertain as well to booster club fund-raisers serving up hoagies, bake sales and spaghetti dinners, says Campbell. According to her, 300 people in Pennsylvania became ill from food served by nonprofits in 2008. Not only can the victims suffer physically and mentally, they can be hit with expensive medical bills, resulting in negative publicity for the nonprofits at best—and lawsuits at worst.

The causes of foodborne illness include: chemical (detergents, pesticides and medications); physical (glass, plastic and pests); and biological (bacteria, viruses and parasites). "That's why it's important for food handlers to maintain hygiene by frequently washing hands with soap/warm water, for starters, and wearing plastic gloves when appropriate," Campbell says.

Chestnut Ridge volunteer fireman Bob Fry says the workshop was "very much worth it." Two of the cautionary tips that stood out to him were keeping food out of the "danger zone" of 40 to 140 degrees—where bacteria thrives—and preventing money takers at events from also handling or serving food. In addition, he believes the safety manual provided to attendees was a welcome bonus. "The book alone contains a wealth of knowledge and reference material on food safety practices," he says.