NFSM 2022: Food Handlers

Refresh Your Knowledge—Basic Food Safety Practices Every Food Handler Should Know

August 26
Looking for Week 2's post on how restaurant managers can run a safe, clean operation? Click here

National Food Safety Month (NFSM) 2022 is here and we’re excited to kick off a month of exploring food safety at every level starting with the most essential restaurant employees: food handlers. Food handlers have an important role in keeping food safe, as many handlers come in direct contact with menu items. Simple safe food handling practices can help prevent the spread of pathogens and keep customers protected from foodborne illnesses. But as easy as safe food handling practices are to learn, they can also be easy to forget. Let’s revisit some basic food safety standards and best practices.  

Food Handlers’ Role in Food Safety  

The role of a food handler is so important that most states require restaurant and foodservice employees to obtain a Food Handler Certification as a requirement for employment. Customers trust that food handlers practice basic food safety and have their best interests in mind. After all, everyone wants to feel safe when dining out. Food handlers have a responsibility to meet the expectations of customers by following a food safety standard, or else run the risk of putting patrons in danger.  

Basic Food Safety Practices


Practice Good Personal Hygiene  

  • Know when, where, and how to wash your hands
  • Only use single-use gloves when handling food. NEVER rinse, wash, or reuse gloves.  
  • Keep fingernails short and clean. DO NOT wear nail polish or false nails. Make sure wounds are covered correctly. 
  • Always wear clean, appropriate clothing and bathe daily. DO NOT wear rings, bracelets, or watches.  
  • NEVER eat, drink, smoke, or chew gum or tobacco in prep areas, areas used to clean utensils and equipment, or in service areas.  
  • If you are experiencing vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), or a sore throat with a fever, report these symptoms to a manager immediately.  
Learn more about WHEN to wash your hands



Controlling Time and Temperature 

  • Know which foods are most likely to become unsafe (temperature controlled for safety, or TCS food).  
  • Keep foods out of the temperature danger zone: 41°F to 135°F (5°C to 57°C).  
  • Know how to use a food thermometer.  
  • Receive cold TCS food at 41°F (5°C) or lower. Receive hot TCS food at 135°F (57°C) or higher. 
  • Store TCS food safely at the right temperature.  
  • Cooked TCS food must reach the correct internal temperature and stay there for a specific amount of time.  
  • Prepare food safely. NEVER 
    • Thaw TCS food at room temperature.
    • Prepare TCS food in large batches.
    • Cool large amounts of hot food in a cooler or cool food at room temperature.
    • Use hot-holding equipment to reheat food (unless it has been made for this purpose).
  • Make sure cooked TCS food reaches the correct internal temperature and stays there for a specific amount of time.
Download our comprehensive cooking temperature chart


Preventing Cross-Contamination  

  • Store food only in designated food storage areas, away from walls, off the floor, and wrapped or covered. 
  • Make sure workstations, cutting boards, equipment, and utensils are cleaned and sanitized before prepping food.  
  • Keep produce away from raw meat and wash before use.  
  • When serving, do NOT touch the parts of dishes, glassware, or utensils that come in contact with food.  
  • Always store chemicals and cleaning supplies in a designated storage area, NEVER store near food. 


Cleaning and Sanitizing  

  • Know the difference between cleaning and sanitizing: cleaning removes food and other dirt from a surface; sanitizing reduces pathogens on a surface to safe levels. 
  • Know which surfaces to clean and/or which to clean and sanitize, when to clean them, and how to do it.  
  • Use a dishwasher (when available) to clean and sanitize smaller items and a three-compartment sink for larger items.  
  • Remove garbage from prep areas as quickly as possible. Do NOT clean garbage containers near prep or food-storage areas. 
  • Look out for these pest signs:  
    • Droppings
    • Nests
    • Damage to products, packages, or the facility

Food Safety at Every Level

Check back next week when we explore the role of restaurant managers in promoting food safety and stay tuned for all-new blogs, white papers, checklists, videos, and other exciting content throughout National Food Safety Month.