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Play it safe this fall with these concession stand food safety tips

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It’s time for sports! Football is beginning — with soccer and basketball soon to follow. There will be marching bands, pep rallies and family gatherings to cheer on your favorite teams, plus lots of fun and my favorite, concession stands.

Concession stands are great fundraisers. From what’s on the menu to the accommodations they offer, concessions vary widely from site to site. The safety and well-being of everyone visiting the concession stand, as well as the organization’s reputation, lies in the hands of a small but dedicated group of volunteers.

If you are volunteering at a concession stand this football season, use these helpful tips from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension to ensure proper food safety and stay in the game.

▪ Dishwashing liquid can be used to clean all equipment and utensils. It can also be used to wash hands in the absence of soap.

▪ Paper towels can be used to wash and dry equipment and utensils, dry hands and clean countertops. Remember, sponges, dishcloths and brushes can spread harmful bacteria.

▪ Sanitizing solution can be used to sanitize all workspaces including countertops and equipment. According to UGA Food Safety Specialist Dr. Judy Harrison, “sanitizing is a step beyond clean and reduces the levels of bacteria left behind after cleaning.” A quick recipe for sanitizer is one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water.

▪ Gloves, tongs and tissue paper can be used to avoid hand-to-hand contact with food items.

While working the concession stand it’s essential to use these helpful tips:

▪ Wash hands often. This includes when you begin and end your shift and any time you return to the stand. Hands should be washed frequently during food service. Remember, sharing towels also spreads bacteria.

▪ If you handle money with your gloves on, make sure you wash your hands and change gloves prior to continuing with food service.

▪ Keep the germs on ice. Place the ice scooper in a secure place outside of the ice machine. You wouldn’t want germs from the handle to contaminate the entire batch of ice.

▪ Ensure all meats are cooked to the appropriate internal temperature. Beef should reach 160 degrees and chicken should reach 165 degrees. Correct temperature is one safe way to kill bacteria and avoid illness.

▪ Keep it cold: Lettuce, fruits, vegetables and condiments should be stored in a cooler with ice or in a refrigerator at 40 degrees or colder. While this may be a no-brainer, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen lemons, pico de gallo and other condiments languishing without proper cooling.

▪ Keep it hot: Some foods can be dangerous if they are not held at the appropriate temperature once they are cooked. If the food item is not kept warm, throw it out after two hours. If the temperature outside exceeds 90 degrees, that time should be reduced to one hour.

▪ Even if you only have minor symptoms of illness, don’t volunteer. Get someone to replace you.

▪ Training is essential. Volunteers are primarily made up of students, parents and good-hearted members of our community. Provide food safety training prior to events.

If you are interested in more information about concession stand food safety or training your volunteers, contact Macon-Bibb County Cooperative Extension at 478-751-6338 or visit ugaextension.org/county-offices/bibb.html.

Contact county Extension agent Keishon J. Thomas at thomaskj@uga.edu.

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