All food workers to have a valid Food Handler Certification

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Nutrition Services - Food Handler Study Guide

The Texas Department of State and Health Services and the City of Houston require ALL food workers to have a valid Food Handler Certification in order to work with unpackaged food, food-contact surfaces, food equipment or utensils to maintain food safety. Serving safe food is a critical responsibility for HISD Nutrition Services and its employees. Therefore, please be advised that before you return to work next school year 2016-2017, you are required to complete the Food Handler Certification. In preparation for you to take the on-line Food Handler training, we are providing you with this Study Guide. Please take a moment to review.

Uniform Policy

Employees who are required to wear a uniform shall follow established HISD Nutrition Services clothing and uniform guidelines.

  • Employees shall maintain a good personal hygiene including grooming habits and showering or bathing before work.

  • Employees shall use a clean and ironed uniform and/or apron daily (no exceptions).

  • Employees shall prevent cross-contamination and follow food sanitation guidelines by changing gloves, aprons, and/or hairnets frequently.

  • Employees shall remove ALL piercings during work hours including tongue, nose and ear. All facial piercings are prohibited.

  • Employees shall wear hairnets that cover the hair completely. Failure to wear a hairnet will result in the City of Houston assessing a fine against that individual. Additional/varying hair garments must be pre-approved by management.

  • Employees shall keep their fingernails trimmed and clean with no fingernail polish.

  • Employees shall not wear artificial, acrylic, solar, overlay, and gel fingernails.

  • Employees shall wear aprons for all required assigned tasks and removed them before leaving the food preparation area after their assigned shift.

When Do Employees Must Wash Their Hands?

Before and after handling raw food and after any of these activities: sneezing, coughing or using a tissue; taking out the trash; changing job duties; touching hair, face and/or body; touching your clothing or apron; eating and/or drinking; handling chemicals that might affect food; touching dirty equipment, work surfaces, towels or food preparation tools; and using the restroom.

Hand sanitizer may be used after washing but NEVER in place of proper hand washing. If hand sanitizer is used, employees shall NEVER touch food or food preparation equipment until the sanitizer has completely dried.

Proper Hand-Washing Steps

  • Wet hands and arms with running water as hot as you can comfortably stand (at least 100º F.)

  • Apply enough soap to work up a good lather.

  • Vigorously scrub hands and arms for at least 10-15 seconds. Clean under your fingernails and between your fingers.

  • Rinse hands and arms thoroughly with warm running water. Leave water running.

  • Dry hands and arms with a clean single-use paper towel and turn water off, immediately, using the paper towel.

  • Discard paper towel in a waste container without touching the lid.

Hand Maintenance

In addition to proper hand washing, hands need other regular care and maintenance to ensure that microorganisms are not transferred to food.

Keys to proper hand care include: keeping fingernails short and clean; not wearing false fingernails or nail polish; covering all cuts and sores with clean, color-coated or neutral bandages. Remember: You should not wear jewelry while working.

Gloves Must Be Worn When Handling Food

Gloves must be worn to keep food safe and to create a barrier between your hands and the food. No bare handed contact with any ready-to-eat food is allowed.

Gloves should never be used in place of hand washing. Hands must ALWAYS be washed before putting on or changing to a new pair of gloves. Gloves should NEVER be washed and/or reused, they are for handling food and are for single use only. Never store gloves in apron pockets.

Gloves Should Be Changed?

  • As soon as they become soiled, torn or after handling non-food contact surfaces, such as milk crates or trash can lids.

  • Before you begin a different task.

  • At least every four hours during continual use; more often if necessary.

  • After handling raw meat or before handling cooked or ready-to-eat foods.

Steps to Washing & Sanitizing Your Work Area

  1. Scrape or remove food bits from the surface

  2. Wash the surface with soapy water

  3. Rinse the surface with clean water

  4. Sanitize the surface

  5. Allow the surface to air dry

When you clean, you have removed all old food and other substances. When you sanitized, you have removed or killed any harmful germs that remain.

Using Compartmental Sink

  1. The first sink is for soaking and washing the items. You will use detergent in hot water, at least 110º F.

  2. The second sink is a rinse area.

  3. The third sink is used for sanitizing all items: pots, pans, dishes, glasses, and utensils that contact foods.

  4. The last part of the sink is a surface for air drying pots, dishes, and utensils

Pest Management

  • Pests can get inside a location in many different ways. If you are receiving food, look for any signs of chewed bags or boxes, pest droppings, or broken-off insect legs or wings.

  • Pests can also come in by themselves, through cracks or holes.

  • In many facilities, air curtains are installed above or alongside external doors to keep out flying pests.

  • Be sure to remove garbage regularly

  • Never store food on the floor where pests can easily get at it.

  • It should be on a shelf at least 6 inches off the ground.

  • All chemicals, including pesticides must be stored separate and away from food in a lockable and labeled cabinet.

Food Handling Safety Chain

  1. Growing the food

  2. Transporting the food

  3. Storing the food properly

  4. Cooking

  5. Serving

TCS Foods

TCS foods, stands for "Time and Temperature Control for Safety. Fish, steak, milk, baked potatoes, cooked meals, and chopped fruit are all TCS foods (contain moisture, protein, and low acidity).

The most favorable temperature range for harmful germs to grow and multiply is between 41º F and 135º F. This is called the temperature danger zone. Safe temperature zones are at 41º F or less for keeping cold TCS food, and at 135º F or higher for hot TCS food.

Food Temperatures

Minimum Internal Temperatures

  • 165º F for 15 seconds – poultry (chicken or turkey), stuffed pasta & stuffed fish

  • 155º F for 15 seconds – Ground red meats like beef, pork, or other meat

  • 145º F for 15 seconds – Steaks and chops and any kind of fish or seafood

  • 145º F for 4 minutes – Roasts of any red meat (pork, beef, and lamb

  • 135º F or higher – Any fruit, beans, vegetables, or grains that will be hot-held for service.

Be sure to check the temperature in the thickest part of the meat.

Cooling Process

  1. First cool food from 140º F to 70º F

  2. Cool food to 41º F or lower within the next four hours

Frozen Foods:

  • Check frozen foods for any water stains or visible ice crystals. This usually means the product thawed and was refrozen, which is not acceptable

    • If receiving live shellfish, they must have an identification tag that indicates where and when the shellfish was harvested

  • When using ice, use an ice scoop specifically designated for ice

  • Never serve ice or use it in preparing food if it was used before to keep foods cold

Ways to Safely Thaw Frozen Food

  • Thaw it in a cooler at 41º F or lower

  • Run cold water over the frozen food about 70º F or lower

  • Use the defrost setting on a microwave oven

Preventing Cross-Contamination

Pathogenic microorganisms can be transferred from one surface or food to another. Cross-contamination is to use a surface for cooked food that has just been touched by uncooked food and still has germs on it. The same thing can happen by using a cooking tool.

  • Storing food properly helps to prevent cross-contamination. Store ready to eat food above raw seafood, meat and poultry.

  • Wrap or cover and label food before storing it. Store only in containers intended for food. Store food away from walls and at least 6 inches off the floor.


First In, First Out. Check the expiration date on the packaging and put the newest one in back and the oldest one in front.

Food Contaminants & Hazards


  • Reproduce inside a living cell

  • Do not reproduce in food

  • Some survive cooking and freezing

Transmission: Person-to-person, people-to-food, people-to-food contact surfaces & poor personal hygiene can contribute to the spread


  • Living, single-celled organisms. They reproduce rapidly under right conditions

  • Can survive freezing, some cause spoilage

  • Some cause disease and some create toxins



  • Found in spoiled food and can cause illness

  • Grow best in sweet, acidic foods with low water activity

Types Hazards

  • Biological microorganisms -pathogens: Listeria, Salmonella, E. Coli, Staph

    • People spread organisms from their bodies to food by unclean hands, coughing, or sneezing

    • Unsanitary facilities and equipment

  • Disease – spreading pests, such as cockroaches, flies, or mice, which are attracted to food preparation areas, may contaminate food and equipment

To prevent any contaminants in our food and hazards, keep foods out of the danger zone 41-135, wash and sanitize equipment and hands and follow pest control program.


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