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Food Server’s Guide to Food Handling

Krista Fredrick

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Krista Fredrick | August 14, 2013 | 0

Understanding the reasons behind proper food handling is an essential part of food handler training. This way, food handler certification students can learn their lessons by heart, which will help them apply the lessons better. The fact that thousands of people can die from having a single bite of a contaminated veggie, fruit or steak should be reason enough for food handlers to be careful in shopping, preparing and cooking food. Here are some things to keep in mind for food handlers out there:

Shopping, Handling

If you’re in charge of shopping for your food selection or stock, make sure to observe the following:
–    Drop by the non-perishable goods shelves first before heading for the perishables section.
–    Double-check the meat or poultry packaging for any leaks.
–    Always take note of the expiry dates of the food you’re purchasing.


One important aspect of keeping food safe is proper storage. Make sure to keep a cooler in your car or establishment’s service vehicle when shopping for food stock. Chill perishables immediately on your way back to the establishment. A rule of thumb is to refrigerate perishables within 2 hours of exposure to room temperature.

As for storage duration, ground meat, poultry, fish, deli meat should only be stored in the freezer for two days while choice cuts should be stored within three to five days only. Canned goods that are acidic (i.e. fruit wedges and cocktails) meanwhile should only be stored in the shelves for one to one and half years. Those that have low acid content can be kept in the shelves for two to five years.


If you’re also involved in preparing the food occasionally, just bear in mind to separate utensils and cutting boards used on raw produce from other food. Make sure to wash and sanitize the tools as well before using them on another food.

Of course, you have to always wash your hands every time you’ll be handling a new variety of food. These things will help you avoid cross-contaminating food and tools. As for marinating and thawing, always marinate and thaw meat in a covered container in the fridge. Don’t do these things at room temperature.


A cardinal rule in cooking beef, pork, lamb and veal is to make sure that their internal temperature has reached no less than 145 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Before serving the food, allow the food to rest for approximately three minutes.


Food safety doesn’t end the moment the food is cooked well. Before serving the food, however, take note of your hygiene and personal effects. Wear your hair net properly and make sure your hands are clean. Women shouldn’t be wearing nail polish when serving or handling food.

–    Food that is fresh off the grill or cooking pot should be kept warm at 140 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter. (Buffet food has to be kept warm and displayed on warming trays or slow cookers.)
–    As for cold food, they should be kept cold at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. (Cold buffet food and perishables should be chilled by displaying them in trays lodged over trays of crushed ice or ice cubes.)
–    Perishables, raw or fresh foods should not be left at room temperature for over two hours; if the day’s temperature is warmer, then the food should be consumed immediately and should not be left for more than an hour.

As a food handler, it is your primary responsibility to maintain the freshness and healthfulness of the food your establishment serves. Remember that missing out on a single detail during food safety preparation has the potential to can negatively affect the health and even the lives of your customers.

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