URI offers food safety training to non-profits planning summer festivals, church suppers, cook-outs

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KINGSTON, R.I. – May 4, 2006 — One of the largest outbreaks of salmonella in the United States occurred after a church supper in Maryland where 741 people became ill. Similar outbreaks of food-borne illnesses have occurred at festivals, community dinners, fund-raising events, and other programs sponsored by non-profit agencies around the country.

To ensure that Rhode Island’s non-profit organizations know how to prepare food safely and understand how food-borne illnesses are transmitted, the University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension and the Office of Food Protection at the Rhode Island Department of Health are offering a free food safety training session for non-profits on May 24.

“Non-profit organizations have an obligation under the law to prepare and serve safe food to the public,” said Martha Smith Patnoad, URI Cooperative Extension food safety educator who will lead the training session. “Most groups do a great job, but there is always room for improvement, especially since the consequences of an outbreak of food-borne illness could be devastating to the organization.”

The two-hour training session will be held at Warwick Public Library beginning at 6:30 p.m. on May 24. The $25 workshop fee per organization includes a 10-minute video, a set of short learning modules for use with volunteers, food safety resources for workers, and a food safety log for recordkeeping.

According to Ernest Julian, chief of the Office of Food Protection, “we have well-meaning volunteers who are trying to help the community and this course is an excellent opportunity for them to learn how to prevent food related illness from occurring at their event.”

According to Patnoad, the most common food safety concerns for non-profit groups that prepare food for the public are personal hygiene, maintaining proper temperatures for hot and cold foods, the cross-contamination of foods, and issues relating to preparing and serving food at off-site locations. In addition to these topics, the training session will cover menu planning, sanitation, state regulations and record keeping.

For more information or to register for the workshop, contact Patnoad at 401-874-2960 or mpatnoad@uri.edu.