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National Restaurant Association Celebrates “National Food Safety Month”

Source: National Restaurant Association

Source: National Restaurant Association

Employees and employers in the restaurant and food service industries, what is the correct answer to the following question:

Q: What month is National Food Safety month?
A:  Every month! 

That being said, The National Restaurant Association named September “National Food Safety Month” for the first time back in 1994. Now an annual event each September, National Food Safety Month is dedicated as a time to “heighten awareness about the importance of food safety education”. The Association offers numerous tools, videos, and activities meant to get the restaurant and food service industries talking about, learning about, and reviewing food safety standards. You can find a full range of these materials at foodsafetymonth.com.

So, restaurant and food service employees, wish your fellow industry colleagues a “Happy National Food Safety Month!” throughout September. In fact, why not do the same for the other 11 months of the year as well? Keep checking right here on our Wide-Line Blog for food safety developments/news for the food industry, highlighting topics that range from the farm to the table.

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Now Trending

At the beginning of each calendar year, The Wide Line publishes a blog summarizing upcoming food processing, restaurant and grocery trends. In preparation, we comb through industry journals, blogs, briefs, articles and websites for the latest and greatest in the world of food. We then whittle it down to the pacesetters, the sure-bets and the must-knows. So, without further ado, here are the food fads that will most impact what we produce and consume in 2015:

Asian Invasion

Matcha Tea (Source: Japanese Green Tea)

Matcha Tea (Source: Japanese Green Tea)

Through travel and tech, the world’s population is becoming increasingly culturally-savvy. Consumers have developed more sophisticated palates, wanting to experience bold and exotic foods and flavors reflective of their curiosities and interests. Look for regional Asian cuisine, like Japanese and Fillipino, to make appearances on menus and in grocery aisles. Japanese matcha tea, praised for its antioxidant and metabolic properties, will flavor everything from ice cream to sushi; while binchotan, an odorless, smokeless Japanese charcoal, will cook foods quickly and cleanly. Fermented foods (like Korean kimchi) will also continue to gain popularity, while coconut sugar will gain market traction with health and sustainability claims.

Eat Local & Read the Label

Prep Pad (Source: The Orange Chef Co.)

Prep Pad (Source: The Orange Chef Co.)

As opinions on sustainability, food ethics and ingredients become more culturally-pervasive, consumers increasingly want to know exactly what they’re eating and from where it came. Look for more locally-sourced meats, locally-grown produce and locally-crafted foods popping up in restaurants and supermarkets. Grains milled on-site for use in pasta, bread and pizza will also gain momentum. Along similar philosophies, food packaging will begin to move toward “clear” labeling, making package claims simpler and more transparent for the consumer. “Prep Pad”, a new countertop scale that links with an iPad, can also give its owners more detailed nutritional information.

Artisan Everything

Artisan cheeses (Source: Saveur)

Artisan cheeses (Source: Saveur)

The coveted consumer group known as “Millenials”—those born from 1982 to the early 2000’s—have embraced the artisanal food movement through their love of unique foods with authentic origins. For years, craft breweries have been at the forefront of the trend. Look for them to continue to lead the way by experimenting with ingredients known as “gruits” (herbs, spices and aromatics) in order to broaden taste profiles. Microdistilled spirits are also gaining popularity in the artisan beverage category, while artisan cheeses and ice cream are trending in the dairy category. Artisan butchery and house-cured meats are becoming increasingly popular in foodservice.

Protein’s Still King

Protein sources in food (Source: Functional Fitness)

Protein sources in food (Source: Functional Fitness)

A recent industry report concluded that “protein is the hottest functional food ingredient trend in the United States”. Protein is being added to food in order to “deliver a large range of benefits” from “promoting satiety” to helping with “weight loss and management”. Protein-rich grains and seeds, led by the ever-popular quinoa, will continue their impressive popularity. Rice, millet, buckwheat, amaranth, kamut, spelt, freekah and farro will also become increasingly pervasive. In the meat and poultry category, quality and origin are increasingly important, while dairy is finding its way into new snacks, beverages and savory products. Eggs, Legumes and Nuts are also growing in popularity as alternative forms of protein.

Smokin’ Hot

A smoker used to make a cocktail (Source: New York Times)

A smoker used to make a cocktail (Source: New York Times)

Consumers will increasingly seek bolder, more intense flavor experiences. Smoking food “deepens flavor and aroma, adding richness to meals and drinks.” Based upon the rise of hot sauces such as sriracha, smoked food is predicted to be everywhere—from vegetables and butters to cocktails and cheese. Watch for home-cooks using backyard smokers and adding liquid smoke to recipes.

Despite increased awareness of health and nutrition and a growing appetite for adventurous cuisine, consumers still rely on three main factors when making decisions regarding food: convenience, taste and price. So, food processors—anticipate the trends, but remember the motivators. People may change what, how and why they eat, but they still gotta to eat.

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They’re Real, and They’re Spooktacular

One If By Land, Two If By Sea Restaurant

One If By Land, Two If By Sea Restaurant

It’s that time of year again—your heart races, your palms sweat and the past haunts you. No, it’s not tax season. It’s Halloween—the celebration of costumes, candy and scary, well, just about everything. Halloween is big business for the food processing industry, with this year’s U.S. confectionery sales expected to top $2.5 billion dollars.

The food service industry also capitalizes on the holiday, often holding special promotions celebrating the time of year. However, Halloween is essentially year-round for some restaurants, with ghost sightings and paranormal activity always a daily special.

In the “spirit” of the season, here’s a list of some of the most haunted eateries in the U.S.:

Arnaud’s, New Orleans, LA: One of the most haunted places in one of the most haunted cities in the world, Arnaud’s is haunted by its founder, “Count” Arnaud Cazenave. His ghost occasionally appears in the dining room, seating “guests” who then disappear through walls.

Beardslee Castle, Little Falls, NY: Featured on the TV show “Ghost Hunters”, the two resident ghosts have been known to shatter glasses, close doors, reset tables and move objects.

Bodega Brew Pub, La Crosse, WI: This pub’s original owner died on the premises in 1901. His ghost has been seen by patrons and employees, occasionally tapping their shoulders. Unexplained chills have also been felt, and bricks stack and restack themselves in the basement.

Casey Moore’s Oyster House, Tempe, AZ: Patrons have reported seeing ghostly couples dancing in the upstairs room, as well as flatware flying through the dining room. An eerie glow often radiates from the second floor.

Catfish Plantation, Waxahachie, TX: Known as the “most haunted restaurant in Texas”, this Cajun restaurant occupies the former home of a deceased woman. Coffee brews itself, dishes and cups have been stacked in odd places and a ghostly “bride” has been seen by the windows.

Ear Inn, New York, NY: Built in 1817, the building has been a bar and restaurant over most of its life. Spirits who died during Prohibition, when the Ear Inn was a speakeasy, are said to still frequent the bar. The fireplace often ignites by itself, and cell phones die for no reason.

Hooters, Chicago, IL: Housed in a building that served as a morgue to the victims of the 1915 Eastland disaster on the Chicago River, the downtown Hooters is also near the site of a 19th Century bodysnatching operation. According to staff, there have been many strange sights, sounds and other paranormal activity in the restaurant.

The Jury Room, Columbus, OH: Opened in 1831 and built on a Native American burial ground, The Jury Room once operated as a bordello. Featured on “The Dead Files”, objects often move by themselves and a tall, shadowy figure occasionally appears behind the bar. Women also report being attacked by unseen forces.

The Melting Pot, Littleton, CO: Formerly the town jail, both an inmate and a jailer are said to have died on the premises. Candles light themselves, machinery moves around and voices are often heard behind the sealed back staircase.

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Food Safety in Paradise: Hawaii Implements A New Rating Program

Source: Polynesian Cultural Center

Source: Polynesian Cultural Center

One may have thought references to someone “getting a red card” might have diminished with the conclusion of the World Cup this July. However, residents of Hawaii have the phrase very much in mind with the launch of the Hawaii Department of Health’s new restaurant food safety law (one based on similar existing initiatives in Toronto and Sacramento).

Getting a “green card” means an inspection has been passed. To pass, a restaurant must demonstrate it does not allow employees to have bare-handed contact with ready-to-eat foods, that it maintains proper holding temperatures for food, ensures hand washing standards compliance, etc. “Yellow” indicates that there are “two or more major violations” that require “a follow-up inspection. Red means the place is shut down due to health risks.”

A level of debate, according to Manolo Morales of KHON, has resulted especially from the implementation of the glove requirements. Some concerned food workers cite the gloves are cumbersome to wear during food preparation, while officials argue the use of gloves can prevent numerous food safety concerns including norovirus, “the number one food borne illness in the country.” Locals and visitors to the islands, alike, now can now get a taste of the program, at any of the 10,000 establishments covered by the law.

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Often Off The Radar: Hepatitis A and Food Safety

When it comes to food illness, such names as Listeria, E.coli, etc. might be familiar. A name that may be more of a surprise to some is “Hepatitis.” More specifically, Hepatitis A appeared in some disconcerting recent headlines involving a New York City tapas restaurant. Hepatitis A is a virus that causes liver inflammation. According to the Mayo Clinic, “You’re most likely to contract hepatitis A from contaminated food or water or from close contact with someone who’s already infected.” The virus can be passed on via small traces of fecal material being orally ingested.

This appears to have been the cause for concern in NYC. An employee, having returned from a trip to Mexico, may have exposed several hundred people to the virus, via handling desserts at the restaurant. Customers that ate at the restaurant within this certain time period are being encouraged to get vaccinated for safe measure.

handwashingEven if Hepatitis A might not be a commonly focused-upon food-safety related virus in the media and amongst consumers,  it does share a very common method of prevention with many other food illnesses: hand-washing. This simple measure can help prevent the spread of Hepatitis A in the food industry and elsewhere.

Even if mild cases of the virus generally do not create any “permanent liver damage,” you can be sure seeing the word “Hepatitis” connected to the food supply can be quite shocking to the average American consumer. Informing employees and making sure your entire operation is informed and trained in proper hand-washing techniques can help prevent this virus and a whole host of others.

To check out some helpful resources to assist in implementing an effective hygiene program, check out this free FDA resource.

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