Kits donated by league help protect food safety at Westport events
At the Senior Clambake, farmers markets, church fairs and other events where food -- hot and cold -- is served, who's on the lookout for unsanitary practices that could serve up salmonella and E-coli, twin demons that cause food poisoning?
Their work protecting folks of all ages from miseries of food poisoning was ratcheted up last week by the addition of eight loaner food safety kits. Signs of food poisoning may range from not feeling OK to experiencing painful stomach cramping. Full-blown food poisoning frequently includes vomiting, diarrhea.
The food safety kits newly stocked at the Health District office at 280 Bayberry Lane have been paid for with a $2,400 grant from the Westport Young Women's League. Non-profit organizations wishing to sign one out for an event should contact the Health District at 203-227-9571.
The money, on a Health District "wish list:, was used to assemble the kits and keep them supplied for a year with disposables -- soap, paper towels, chlorine, ammonium chloride tablets, disposable gloves, sanitizer and other supples.
Cooper and Rorick are both grateful for the gift from the Young Women's League.
"On behalf of the Westport-Weston Health District, I would like to sincerely thank the ... league for awarding the grant to the district for the purchase of food safety equipment," Cooper said.
"The league's grant is truly a gift to the community which will make it easier, safer and more cost-effective for local not-for-profit organizations to hold fundraisers that involve foods served to the public. The kit includes three rectangular plastic basins, a food thermometer to check temperatures of hot foods, two additional thermometers to check temperatures of cold foods, disposable towels and 18 pages of directions.
"The hand-washing station is accompanied by a soap pump. It looks a little like the coffee box Dunkin' Donuts supplies for large groups. It's filled with warm water. The box has a spigot on it. You can tilt it to get the water running," Rorick said.
Following are some of the food-safety guidelines in the kit:
"¢ The number-one cause of food-borne illness outbreaks is the failure to keep potentially hazardous foods at the proper temperatures.
"¢ Potentially hazardous foods are those consisting in whole or part of milk, milk products, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish or other foods capable of supporting the rapid growth of infectious or toxic micro organisms.
"¢ This includes hot dogs, pizza, cooked rice, beans, potatoes and other cooked vegetables, sliced melons, cream-filled pastries as well as the more commonly accepted types of foods.
"¢ Keeping foods at safe temperatures is critical in protecting health.
"¢ Cold foods should be held below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
"¢ It is important to cook foods without interruption.
"¢ Partial cooking in advance is a dangerous practice.
"¢ Following are minimum cooking temperatures: poultry, 165 degrees F; pork, 150 degrees F; beef, 155 degrees F.
Rorick said she checks out around 80 temporary events a year, making sure that food vendors have proper permits. The permits are issued to applicants two to three weeks before the event.
Rorick said she checks on farmers market food vendors twice a month. But many of the events she inspects are one of a kind, such as the recent Italiano Festival, the Great Duck Race and the Senior Clambake.