I went shopping a few weeks ago at a well known Vietnamese grocery store in Seattle; one with an in-store deli. We'll call this place "A". I was standing in the checkout line which happens to be next to the deli when I noticed something out of the ordinary. Three of their employees were literally throwing deli items that they had sitting out into boxes and taking them into storage. While the other two were frantically putting time labels onto their to-go boxed goodies that they had sitting out at room temp.

What the heck? Apparently, a health inspector was on his way to pay the deli a visit. Which explains "clean up" they were doing.

Yesterday afternoon while eating at another well know Vietnamese restaurant in the international district (We'll call this place "B") I suddenly heard the waitress screaming into the kitchen " Tới! Tới!". Curious to see who was coming I turned my head towards the door and noticed.....my sanitation teacher from school....who also happens to be a health inspector walking in. I directed my attention back towards the kitchen ('cause I'm noisy as hell...) and heard "bao tay! bao tay!" (gloves! gloves!).

The fact that place A, was cleaning up, and putting time labels on their food items proves that they possess adequate knowledge of food safety and sanitation. The same goes for place B. I just wonder why they have to/want to wait until the health inspector shows up for them to comply.

In America, 76 million people get food food poisoning each year! Most of those cases can be prevented by following a few simple guidelines.

It's really not that hard....

-Cook foods to proper temperatures.

-keep hot foods hot, at or above 140'F

-keep cold foods cold, at or below 40'F

-Avoid the danger zone, however cooked and ready to eat foods can be stored in the danger zone for up to 4 hours (because it cooked to the proper temperatures, it takes at least 4 hours for bacteria to multiply enough to cause harm)... Seattle's food regulations allows 4 hours in the danger zone but there has to be a method of keeping track of time for each item hence the time labels place A was frantically putting on their food.

-thaw frozen foods in the fridge, under cold running water or in the microwave

-cool foods to at least 70'F within 2 hours of cooking and then below 40'F within the next 4 hours (in a nutshell, what you're trying to do is cool the food item to 40'F or below asap, within 4 hours).

-reheat cooked foods to proper at least 140'F for at least 15 seconds.

-prevent cross-contamination

-don't touch ready to eat foods with your bare hands...or any bare body part....:p

-when storing food in the fridge, store from top to bottom:

cooked and ready to eat foods
whole meat
ground meat

That's basically it...oh yeah there's also...sorting cleaning chemical away from food, keep dried goods (pantry) try and clean, check temp of fridge and freezer every now and common sense stuff.

Food safety is one of those things that people sometime misunderstand. Whether someone is a professional chef or a home cook, food safety is something that they should have knowledge of and proudly apply everyday to their creations. My standards for food stretches beyond taste, texture, aroma, appearance and passion. Whatever it is you're serving up, it shouldn't make you or whoever you feed it to sick in the body and mind!

Take pride in what you make and do it with passion, apply your creativeness and zest and success will be at your door!....and always remember KEEP IT CLEAN! Please, ;)