Concession stands are found many public areas, such as sporting venues, schools, fairgrounds, beaches and in local parks – offering anything from popcorn and pretzels to cheesesteaks and hamburgers
Concession stands are especially susceptible to food safety issues with part-time, under-trained staff, the weather, and pests.
First off, warmer weather and cooking outdoors increases the chance of bacteria multiplying on or contaminating food that can make people sick.
More importantly, part-time, under-trained workers pose the biggest risk. They are often part-time cooks and may not have the proper knowledge of food safety practices or procedures – or may never have taken a food safety training course.
The safety of everyone visiting the concession stand, as well as an organization’s reputation, relies on responsible workers that understand and follow proper food safety procedures.
Warmer Temperatures and Lack of Indoor Safety Controls
Foodborne illnesses increase during the summer because not only does bacteria multiply faster in warmer temperatures, but preparing and handling food outdoors makes food safety more challenging.
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The usual safety controls that a kitchen provides, like monitoring of food temperatures, refrigeration, workers trained in food safety and washing facilities, may not be available and can lead to food illness.
Requirements differ by state, but in general, concession food handler should take a basic food handler training course.
Likewise, always check with your local regulatory authority for requirements that apply to your specific operation.
Concession Employees: Tips and Training
Because concession stands are only open during specific seasons and sporting events, chances are they aren’t run by a full-time staff. While there may be one consistent owner or manager, the food will most likely be prepared and served by workers with no food experience or part-time employees.
Likewise, since concession stands don’t have the normal staffing a restaurant does, the same person could be handling multiple tasks including cleaning, cooking, and manning the cash register – which if not done properly can cause food contamination.
Here are a few food safety guidelines to follow while working concessions:
- Keep clean. Wash hands with soap and water frequently (after handling money, using the restroom, sneezing or coughing, etc.).
- Handle food safely. Use gloves, tongs, deli sheets, etc. instead of touching food with your bare hands.
- Stay away if sick. Do not work when you are sick (fever, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.).
- Cover cuts and wonds. Any cuts or wounds on your hands should be covered with clean bandages and disposable gloves.
- Clean appearance. Wear clean clothes and tie long hair back.
- No eating in food area. Do not eat while working and keep drinks away from food preparation areas.
- Follow food safety. Understand and follow all food safety principles and procedures.
Concession Employees: Temperature Danger Zone
The temperature danger zone is the temperature range – at which high risk foods must be held outside of – otherwise rapid bacterial growth and toxin production can occur and reach levels to potentially make humans sick.
The Temperature Danger Zone is the temperature range between 40°F and 140°F. At temperatures of 90°F and above, bacteria multiply rapidly.
Concession Employees: Food Contaminants
A food contaminant is any harmful or poisonous agent (biological, chemical, or physical) – that is not naturally inherent to the food itself – in an amount that has the potential to pose a threat to human health or cause illness.
Because food becomes hazardous by contamination, food contaminants are also referred to as food hazards. A hazard is any source of potential damage, harm, or adverse health effects on something or someone.
The types of food contamination and the associated food contaminants (hazards) are:
- Biological Hazards: Biological hazards include bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Bacteria and viruses are responsible for most foodborne illnesses and are the biggest threat to food safety.
- Chemical Hazards: Chemical hazards include natural toxins and chemical contaminants (cleaning and sanitizing agents, natural toxins, drugs, food additives, pesticides, industrial chemicals, and other toxins).
- Allergens: Food allergens are a sub-category of natural toxins within chemical hazards. Some people are sensitive to certain proteins in foods. The 8 major food allergens include: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish (lobster, crab, shrimp), wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts.
- Physical Hazards: Physical hazards are foreign objects which include glass, metal, plastic, bone chips, hair, insects, pest droppings, and other undesirable particles or objects.
Concession Employees: Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has temperature guidelines for minimum cooking temperatures and rest time for meat, poultry, seafood, and other cooked foods. Be sure to use a food thermometer to check whether meat has reached a safe internal temperature that is hot enough to kill harmful germs that cause food poisoning
Refer to the chart below for Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures:
|Ground Meat & Meat Mixtures
|Beef, Pork, Veal, Lamb
|Fresh Beef, Veal, Lamb
|Steaks, roasts, chops
|Chicken & Turkey, whole
|Poultry breasts, roasts
|Poultry thighs, legs, wings
|Duck & Goose
|Stuffing (cooked alone or in bird)
|Pork and Ham
|Fresh ham (raw)
|Precooked ham (to reheat)
|Eggs & Egg Dishes
|Cook until yolks and
white are firm
|Leftovers & Casseroles
|145 or cook until flesh is opaque and separates easily with a fork.
|Shrimp, lobster, and crabs
|Cook until flesh is pearly and opaque.
|Clams, oysters, and mussels
|Cook until shells open during cooking.
|Cook until flesh is milky white or opaque and firm.
Customers: Left-Overs – 2 Hour Rule
If you can’t eat all your food from a concessions and take it home, be sure to keep food times in mind. Don’t let food sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. On a hot day (90°F or higher), reduce this time to one hour.
Customers: Report a Food Illness
Foodborne illness is sometimes called “food poisoning”. Common symptoms of many foodborne illnesses include:
- diarrhea or bloody diarrhea;
- abdominal pain;
Symptoms can range from mild to serious and can last from a few hours to several days.
Anytime you think you may have gotten a foodborne illness, report it to your local health department, even if you have already recovered.
The local public health department is an important part of the food safety system. Often, calls from concerned citizens are how outbreaks are first detected. If a public health official contacts you to find out more about an illness you had, your help is important.