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Posted on Mar 30, 2015 in Blog

FoodSafetyGuy Answers YOUR Questions


Lars Johnson, Food Safety Guy

The FoodSafetyGuy team spends time teaching people how to safely handle food. The topics discussed in the classroom, the FSG Newsletter, and other FoodSafetyGuy events spur conversation and afterwards participants usually have some residual questions rolling around in their heads.

Here are a few questions Lars Johnson has received along with the answers he has provided.


Health Inspector M.I.A

 Hi Lars,
 I’m waiting for a response from our Health Dept. Inspector.

When I email my inspector, they do not respond. That does not seem appropriate to  me. What would you suggest? Call them? Or take the question to inspector’s  supervisor?

You are not the only person who feels this pain. Inspectors are very busy and as someone who spends days at a time away from my desk, I know it can be hard to get back to a person no matter how important the situation.

That said, your clarifying questions are very important and need answers. I recommend a phone call as well as a follow up email, perhaps in the tone of:

“Hi ______, I’ve sent a couple of emails and haven’t heard back. Just in case I don’t have the address right, I am copying ______ as well. I want to get all my corrections taken care of, but I need a little more information.”

Let me know how it goes!

Counting Down The Hand Washing Minutes

Hi Lars,
When my inspector was at one of my facilities last week, they noted that an employee was washing hands for 10 seconds and gave the unit a critical order for not washing hands for 20 seconds. I know the regs specify 20 seconds, but also know there isn’t any scientific evidence to substantiate that. The critical order seems extreme. What are your thoughts on this? Should I challenge it?

This is definitely a pick-your-battle question. Let’s see if we can all win.

Minnesota currently requires 20 seconds, the FDA code has settled on 10-15 seconds. As we all know, the real answer is 2 times through the A-B-Cs (LOL). It’s all about getting the hands clean, not about the time. The crucial items are enough friction to loosen debris and microbes from the hands, water to rinse away what is loosened up and soap which is toxic to organisms, is a good idea, too. Contact time does matter, as when you clean or sanitize anything else in your kitchen.

Health inspectors are charged with enforcing the code when they come to visit, and that is in the code. You weren’t actually there to see the violation, so you don’t know if the person washed long enough. Did the inspector use a stop watch? Probably not- but some do! Of course the employee and manager are going to tell you they washed long enough.

I think a best practice in this situation would be to reply to the inspector: “Thanks for your observation on our hand washing. We try hard to do a good job, but apparently someone might have been in a hurry. We will review the hand washing steps with all our staff and sign them off, emphasizing all the proper steps, including duration.”

Who wins?

  • The health inspector because they helped you get a little better and safer
  • The manager because they get elbow time at the hand sink with all of their dear friends and coworkers
  • The customers because they will see an increase in good washing (BTW, if the health inspector saw abbreviated hand washing once, do you think your customers saw it other times?)
  • You win because you tightened up a procedure, you solidified a relationship with your regulator, and you get to sleep better with one less thing to worry about

You never want anyone with a doubt about how good your team is at hand washing.


The Sink Connection

I have what I hope is a quick question. Do you recall when we walked through one of the back areas and you mentioned something about the sink in the pictures I have attached, that there was something about them that wasn’t code. I am trying to remember what it was. Looking for help from you!

Thank you for remembering to circle back on that. When a building is plumbed, licensed plumbers will always follow codes for installation that will prevent dirty water from ever being sucked back into the main water supply for the building, which of course would contaminate the whole place.

You will notice that several things have been done after the original inspection. There are two issues here, both related to cross-connections.

First, there is a big pipe hanging right down into the sink. This a drain or discharge line. The open end of the pipe sticks down below the flood rim of the sink. If the drain would clog at all and mucky water backs up into the sink, the pipe could suck the dirty water up if there was a back pressure or siphoning effect.

Second you will notice that there is a pressurized hose hanging down. Whatever would come out when squeezing its trigger is under a lot of pressure. If that pressure reverses, it is now like a straw, sucking that dirty water up.

Raise the drain pipe to a position above the rim of the sink and hang that hose in a way it can’t dangle into the sink and you are all set!