Linda Kender is an associate professor in the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. As part of the Foodservice Academic Studies department, she currently instructs in cost control, menu planning and sanitation. Prior to joining Johnson & Wales, she served as executive chef at the Culling House in East Providence, and worked at the Rhode Island Inn, a Johnson & Wales practicum property, as garde manger chef and as executive chef and beverage manager. Kender is a Certified Food Executive through the International Food Service Executives Association. In her spare time, Kender cooks for participants in the Ronald McDonald House Walk-a-thon, as well as the homeless veterans in Operation Stand Down.
What is the single most important thing that can be done (by food growers, producers, government, consumers – any, or all of the above) to improve food safety in the United States?
L.K.: Education! There are numerous websites (even YouTube) and informational brochures, such as Fight Bac, that are specific on the topic of food safety. Clueing in the average consumer may be as simple as teaming up with your local grocer to display a series of food safety messages on the flat-screen televisions at the prepared foods and deli counters.
Linda Kender tells us whether she abides by the following food safety recommendations.
1. I use a “refrigerator thermometer” to keep my food stored at a safe temperature (below 40°F).
L.K.: I check the temperature of my refrigerator once a week, especially during the summer months.
2. I always defrost food in the refrigerator, the microwave or in cold water, never on the counter.
L.K.: Mostly I defrost in the refrigerator, but there have been occasions that I had to resort to the cold running water method.
3. I always use separate cutting boards for raw meat/poultry/fish and produce/cooked foods.
L.K.: No. I always wash, rinse, and sanitize my cutting board when switching proteins or going to a no cook product.
4. I always cook meat to proper temperatures, using a calibrated instant-read thermometer to make sure.
L.K.: No. In my house we like our steaks medium rare and our burgers pink in the middle. No one in the high-risk category lives in my home.
5. I avoid unpasteurized (“raw”) milk and cheeses made from unpasteurized milk that are aged less than 60 days.
L.K.: Yes, absolutely. I also avoid unpasteurized cider and fruit juices as well.
6. I never eat “runny” eggs or foods, such as cookie dough, that contain raw eggs.
L.K.: I never eat runny eggs or anything that contains raw eggs. I even prepare my own Caesar salad dressing using pasteurized egg yolks.
7. I always wash my hands in warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds before handling food and after touching raw meat, poultry or eggs.
L.K.: I must admit that at my home I may not get through “Happy Birthday” twice before working with some food items, but absolutely always after working with raw meats and poultry!
8. I always heat leftover foods to 165ºF.
L.K.: Never have leftovers at my home.
9. I never eat meat, poultry, eggs or sliced fresh fruits and vegetables that have been left out for more than 2 hours (1 hour in temperatures hotter than 90°F).
L.K.: Never….especially during summer here in New England. I insist that all our outdoor activities, such as cookouts, have ice, and lots of it, that is used to keep the salads and other food items cold.
10. Whenever there’s a food recall, I check products stored at home to make sure they are safe.
L.K.: Yes. I receive recall notices at work and take that information home with me and always double check what I’ve purchased.