Food Safety is Paramount

Food businesses want to know that the food they donate is handled safely, even though they are protected from liability under the Good Samaritan Act. Food Assistance organizations want to make sure that the food they receive and distribute to their clients is wholesome.

Food recipients may wonder whether a can of food with an expired “best used by” date is safe to eat. Volunteer food runners want to make sure that they are transporting food properly.

daniel's car to family services
CFR guidelines insure that food is properly handled and transported for food safety.

Food safety is of paramount importance to everyone. That’s why Community Food Rescue has incorporated safe food handling throughout the donation process in close collaboration with the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). This agency licenses and inspects all businesses and agencies that serve food. CFR’s Safe Food Handling Guidelines, vetted by DHHS, guides all of our practices from listing what foods are and are not accepted for donation, to proper packaging, labeling, storing, transporting, and receiving donated foods.

CFR offers videos on safe food handling and transportation
CFR offers videos on safe food handling and transportation

CFR’s website provides written guidelines, videos, and resources so that volunteer food runners can learn proper safe food handling procedures. Each person must pass a quiz with an 80% score or better before they can transport food. During a food run, volunteers complete a CFR Food Donation Tracking Form noting the specific foods. Prepared foods such as cut fruit, cooked foods served hot, and cooked foods that are chilled must be time and temperature controlled for food safety (known as TCS foods). With these types of foods, temperatures are recorded at pick up and drop off and must conform to acceptable time and temperature protocols.

The tracking form is signed by donor, recipient, and volunteer and retained by the food assistance organization for its records. Upon completion of every delivery, both food donors and the recipient organization electronically sign “acknowledging that this food donation was completed in good faith and meets the time/temperature requirements for potentially hazardous food as described in the Community Food Rescue Food Safety Guidelines.”

CFR Safe Food Handling Trainings for staff and volunteers
CFR Safe Food Handling Trainings for staff and volunteers

CFR has also held free safe food handling training sessions, attracting 50 staffers for food assistance organizations and volunteer food runners so far. Students learn proper personal and vehicle hygiene. Jenna Umbriac, Director of Nutrition at Manna Food Center, who teaches the class along with Teresa Johnson, Kitchen Coordinator and ServSafeTM trainer at Family Services, Inc,. notes, “We want to re-enforce proper ways to handle and transport food, while instilling confidence.” Volunteer food runner Marla Satinsky was happy to attend the two-hour training. “I especially liked learning about storage and proper temperatures of food; it’s so important!” she offered.

Date labeling refers to manufacturer's quality of product, not food safety.
Date labeling refers to manufacturer’s quality of product, not food safety.

For anyone who’s ever wondered what the expiration dates on foods mean and if post expiration dated foods are safe to eat, CFR’s Keeping Food Safe from Pantry to Plate provides clear explanations. These brochures are translated into six languages. Food manufacturers include these dates to indicate the duration for best food quality, not food safety. “We can all waste less food when we stop discarding perfectly good food that’s safe to eat”, urges Jenna.

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