Culinary Education May Save Lives

Going out to eat should be an enjoyable experience--not one that sends you to the hospital. Recent news stories about outbreaks of foodborne illnesses serve to remind both consumers and those involved in the food industry about the importance of adhering to safety standards. Chefs, as an important link between farm and table, have the responsibility to make sure all food is handled properly, and culinary schools instruct future chefs about this important task.

Why Chefs Must Take Precautions

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), contaminated foods cause 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths each year. The CDC's 1993-97 Surveillance Report states the five main factors contributing to illness are food from unsafe sources, inadequate cooking, improper holding temperature, contaminated equipment, and poor personal hygiene. To combat these hazards, the CDC, the FDA, and the USDA jointly created the 2005 Food Code, which 48 states have adopted.

Food Safety in the Culinary Curriculum

Aspiring chefs study food safety in culinary arts programs. Food storage, cooking temperatures, sanitation of equipment, hygiene, and facility design are some of the subjects covered. Students are also introduced to the Hazard Analysis and Critical Point (HACCP) program, which provides specific methods for identifying and eliminating food hazards. Food safety protocol protects the public's health and helps restaurants, bakeries, and other food providers to pass routine inspections by local health departments.

Professional cooking carries a responsibility, but culinary schools are prepared with the latest information on food safety. Consequently, diners can be free to enjoy the creative results of a well-trained chef.