Restaurants should be wary of latest food safety training program

Original Article:

  • Author: Rebekah Paxton

  • Publication Date: January 2024

  • Newspaper: Orange County Register

A new law in California now requires restaurants to compensate employees for state-mandated food handler certifications. But the law has been weaponized by advocacy groups looking to push their own training programs.

One Fair Wage (OFW) – a union-backed activist group that wants to end the tipping system around the country – launched a course aimed at advancing its own political goals. However, a draft we reviewed of its Just.Safe.Food program is marred with inaccuracies that could land workers and customers in hot water.

There are many quality products on the market that train restaurant employees in standards for safe food handling. One of these products is called ServSafe – it’s offered by the National Restaurant Association.

Earlier this year, the New York Times cited One Fair Wage in a piece alleging the ServSafe training was helping fund advocacy that ran counter to the interests of food service employees. After securing some national media buzz, One Fair Wage announced it would develop its own food safety course the day after the article ran.

In press statements back in February, One Fair Wage’s policy director indicated the new food safety program would be accredited in a matter of three to six months for employers to use “depending on their state.” Yet roughly a year later, the American National Standards Institute’s National Accreditation Board (ANAB) shows the program has not yet been accredited, despite OFW’s website announcing an “early access release” in January 2024.

Worse, the training might not be up to code.

Beth Torin, who served as the executive director of the New York City Department of Health Office of Food Safety under Mayor Bill de Blasio, reviewed an early draft of One Fair Wage’s training.

In her review of eight draft video trainings, Ms. Torin found significant discrepancies and inaccuracies that would be misleading and detrimental to employees who relied on the course for food handler safety training. Just.Safe.Food used misleading visuals to describe food handling protocols and inaccurate terminology that did not align with industry standards used in kitchens and food preparation. These include improper or inaccurate descriptions of food temperatures and cooling procedures, use of gloves and handwashing, and sanitizing protocols.

Ultimately, Torin concludes that the Just.Safe.Food program is “severely lacking” in content needed to ensure proper safety of food-handling employees and restaurant customers. Such deficiencies could make it a sub-par alternative to other nationally-recognized food handler courses. The inaccuracies found in this program raise concerns about the quality of product One Fair Wage will release to the market, allegedly in January for California employees.

Restaurants looking to equip their employees with the best possible training should be wary of products designed more for ideological goals than for training-related goals.