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Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2009
SAFE FOOD HANDLING LABELS ON TAKE-OUT CONTAINERS CAN HELP RESTAURANTS STAND APART IN THE MARKETPLACE, SAYS K-STATE FOOD SAFETY EXPERT
MANHATTAN -- As take-out food continues to increase in popularity, new research from Kansas State University has found that safe handling labels can help restaurants and food providers distinguish themselves in a competitive marketplace.
"With leftovers, people need information the moment they pull that container or clamshell package from the fridge," said Doug Powell, a K-State associate professor of food safety. "How long has it been in the fridge? Is it still safe? Our approach was to provide practical information, right on the container."
Powell, along with former graduate student Brae Surgeoner and Tanya MacLurin of the University of Guelph in Canada, designed a safe food handling label for take-out food after consulting numerous experts and consumers. They then worked with 10 restaurants in Ontario to provide food safety stickers for take-out food and subsequently interviewed managers about the utility of the stickers.
For the purpose of this research, takeout was defined as food procured from a casual dining restaurant -- in other words, a sit-down restaurant -- but eaten elsewhere, including food ordered as takeout and leftover food packaged to be taken home.
The researchers concluded that such a safe food handling label for take-out food was a promising value-added investment for restaurant operators as long as the stickers were used consistently and employees supported the initiative.
"We strive to provide the right food safety message in the right setting," Powell said. "Hand washing information should go over sinks and the back door of toilet stalls. Food preparation information should go in the back kitchen. Stickers with safe food handling information should go on the clamshell containers that people take home and put in the fridge. That's where the learning moment is."
The results are published in the October 2009 issue of Food Protection Trends.