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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498

Date: September 25, 2012


In Delaware, there are over 2,000 restaurants in the state that prepare and serve food to the public. The Delaware Division of Public Health's (DPH) Office of Food Protection assures through inspections that the food is being handled properly from preparation through serving meeting high standards.

Traditionally, the National Restaurant Association highlights the importance of food safety throughout the month of September. National Food Safety Month was created in 1994 to heighten the awareness about the importance of food safety education. Food safety is much broader than just washing your hands during food preparation. It is actually a science that requires the proper handling, preparation and storage of food to prevent foodborne illness. It is regulated by federal, state and local laws.

New National Restaurant Association research shows that the majority of consumers find food safety important both at restaurants and at home. According to an August 2012 survey of 1,015 American adults, 96 percent say it is important to them to know that the restaurants they visit train employees in food safety. In addition, more than eight out of 10 (81 percent) say they would be more likely to visit a restaurant that trains all its employees in proper food safety practices.

"In Delaware, we are fortunate we have dedicated people in the food services industry who ensure foods being served are safe and enjoyable," said Governor Jack Markell. "It takes people working in food establishments and in health, education and safety to protect and promote our well being."

DPH works to ensure food safety through inspections, regulation and investigating consumer complaints. DPH's Community Environmental Health Services inspects approximately 3,500 food service establishments a year. And, the Office of Food Protection implemented a centralized complaints system 18 months ago as a way to better process, triage and track complaints on food establishments.

"Our goal is to ensure effective compliance and enforcement procedures for food establishments," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director. "Food safety education and safe food practices are the strongest tools for protecting consumers against foodborne illness." When it comes to cooking at home, virtually all consumers say they have at least basic knowledge of food safety. According to the National Restaurant Association, 63 percent of the consumers say they are aware of proper food safety practices and always follow them, while 33 percent say they are familiar with some food safety practices and follow those when they can.

Be safe, don't cross contaminate! Cross-contamination is the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods, cutting boards, utensils, etc., if they are not handled properly. This is especially true when handling raw meat, poultry, and seafood, so keep these foods and their juices away from already cooked or ready-to-eat foods and fresh produce. When handling foods, it is important to keep foods apart. By following some simple steps, you can prevent cross-contamination and reduce the risk of foodborne illness.

When preparing food is important to observe the following: