Preventing Food-Borne Illness At Your Church

Is everyone on your team aware of what they need to do to prevent food-borne illness?

How about volunteers at your church? I just read about a terrible incident where a few people died following a Thanksgiving food service at their local church. Words can't express just how terrible this tragedy is, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends left trying to make sense of it all.

Let's be clear: it’s not known who is responsible for their deaths, whether it was the folks themselves (they all lived together) or the church – or even if the deaths were a result of tainted food. If it was food related, was this tragedy caused by food-borne illness?

If you're planning to open your pantry or kitchen for the holidays, whether it's Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter, food-borne illness is easy to avoid if you take the proper precautions. If your church is planning food services around one of those holidays, this is a great time to familiarize yourself with the USDA guide for cooking groups.

The USDA guide covers a lot of material, from a description of what food-borne illness is and what causes it, to how to build a plan to prevent illness and what to do if you suspect an outbreak. It’s even got cooking temperature guides for some of the most popular proteins cooked for the holidays, for example eggs, ham and roast beef.

Here are a few more food-related resources that your church can use to help prevent food-borne illness at your church and make sure any food you serve is safe for those who will be eating it.

  • California Health and Safety Code Section 114433 “No food facility that donates food as permitted by Section 114432 shall be subject to civil or criminal liability or penalty for violation of any laws, regulations, or ordinances regulating the labeling or packaging of the donated product or with respect to any other laws, regulations, or ordinances, for a violation occurring after the time of the donation.”

  • California Civil Code Section 1714.25 “(a) Except for injury resulting from negligence or a willful act in the preparation or handling of donated food, no food facility that donates any food that is fit for human consumption at the time it was donated to a nonprofit charitable organization or a food bank shall be liable for any damage or injury resulting from the consumption of the donated food. The immunity from civil liability provided by this subdivision applies regardless of compliance with any laws, regulations, or ordinances regulating the packaging or labeling of food, and regardless of compliance with any laws, regulations, or ordinances regulating the storage or handling of the food by the done after the donation of the food.”

  • California Food and Agriculture Code Section 58505 “Except for any injury resulting from gross negligence or willful act, no county or agency of a county established pursuant to this chapter and no person who donates any agricultural product shall be liable for any injury, including, but not limited to, injury resulting from the ingesting of such agricultural product, as a result of any act, or the omission of any act, in connection with donating any product pursuant to this chapter.”

  • United States Code, Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act Title 42, Chapter 13A, Section 1791 “(c) Liability for damages from donated food and grocery products (1) Liability of person or gleaner A person or gleaner shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability arising from the nature, age, packaging, or condition of apparently wholesome food or an apparently fit grocery product that the person or gleaner donates in good faith to a nonprofit organization for ultimate distribution to needy individuals.

  • Don't forget to grab your copy of the USDA guide for cooking groups.

These materials should help your church ensure that it has a happy, festive and successful event.

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