There is a lot more put into preparing and serving food than just making it look and taste good – it also has to be safe to eat.
There are well-defined rules to preparing and serving food safely, so to get people prepared and informed, Prairie Oasis Seniors Center hosted a food preparation safety course on Saturday.
Taught by retired food safety inspector Brad Kelso, the class consisted of mostly the center’s kitchen staff, as well as a few outside people looking to get food safety certification.
Anyone can teach the course, Kelso said, but he said he enjoys it because he has the education and decades of real-world experience he can relate to the course material. This course is recognized by Manitoba Health, as well as required by Red River College and Assiniboine Community College for their courses in culinary arts and hotel management.
It also helps others get up to date with Canadian rules and regulations. Kelso said one of his biggest clients is Westman Immigration Services, and he is willing to give their clients extra help so they can educate themselves and pass their exams for their certification.
Companies and provincial government bodies like Prairie Mountain Health can require staff to have training, Kelso said, but Manitoba is the only province that does not require food safety training before someone can open a food-related business.
“It’s been a sticking point for people like me. The government has said for many years they will change the regulations, but they never have,” he said. “Winnipeg had it in their bylaws long before Manitoba. Every other province has it in their regulations that there must be someone on shift with food safety handling training and certification.”
The course involved going through a series of chapters in an easy-to-read manual, as well as videos demonstrating everything from prep to different types of foodborne illness. Kelso also related many personal experiences over his long career investigating food poisoning cases and working with everyone from government agencies to cruise ship companies.
The original idea was to have Kelso come teach the center’s kitchen staff on current proper food handling practices and kitchen management, said the center’s director, Amanda Fast. To have the class run, however, they needed a minimum of 10 people, so they opened up registration to the public and spots quickly filled.
As restaurants open and look to hire staff, many will be looking for safety training from applicants. Fast said food industry managers are also keen on giving themselves a refresher course as kitchens and dining halls become busier.
It’s a good course for anyone not just to get some professional kitchen training, but learn more about safe food handling for themselves when preparing meals for large private gatherings.
The center runs Meals on Wheels and Everyone Eats Brandon out of their kitchen, so it is in their best interest to keep staff up to date on kitchen safety rules so they can direct anyone coming in to use the kitchen to prepare food for their clients.
“There’s a lot of interest from people who want to cook for large functions like church potlucks, and they may not know all those fine line rules about food safety,” Fast said. “We do have a number of volunteers who come in to cook, and we want all our staff to have the knowledge to answer questions they may have about the rules.”
Getting into the food business has been a side hustle for some attendees like Elizabeth Morrow, who works on the activity side of the center, and she wanted more training to be safer.
She has her own food business and uses the center’s kitchen to prepare food, so she is keen on learning more about safe handling practices.
“I was a little surprised when I started doing my side gig and found out I didn’t need to take it because it wasn’t mandated,” she said. “But they are saying now that at least one person should have it. I’m my only employee, so I feel I have to take it.”
Morrow added she found the course easy to understand and follow. Most of the information was in layman’s terms to which she could relate.
Even though some food franchise companies have their own regulations.
Jaydeepsinh Mahida said as one of the managers of Pizza Pizza in Brandon, food safety certification is the most important aspect of their job. The company offers food safety courses internally, but he found the course very helpful, especially in terms of proper sanitation and food preparation.
“When we are making pizza, food safety is our main thing,” he said.
His co-manager, Kushang Patel, said they are considering offering this same training to their delivery drivers as an option for the safety of their customers and staff overall.
»Twitter: @ karenleighmck1