By Gretchen Musicant, Commissioner, Minneapolis Health Department
The Minneapolis Health Department Division of Environmental Health (MEH) is the proud recipient of the 2019 Samuel J. Crumbine Consumer Protection Award for Excellence in Food Protection. MEH follows three guiding principles in its work:
- Protect Minneapolis’ residents and guests by preventing disease and injury,
- Support our businesses and our community, and
- Be part of a City that works through stewardship of public resources.
MEH firmly believes that supporting our businesses will lead to greater public health protection. MEH created a program that draws from each of these guiding principles to provide education and training to food businesses in the city.
Culturally Relevant Training
In response to three significant foodborne illness outbreaks that affected the City’s Latino and Somali communities in 2013, MEH developed Somali language Certified Food Protection Manager Training (CFPM) and a Latino Food Service Worker training. MEH partnered with community-based organizations to conduct focus groups on food safety and cultural norms within these two communities. The focus groups identified several cultural differences impacting critical food safety risk factors.
Somali CFPM Training: The largest need of Somali businesses was for a CFPM training provided in the Somali language. MEH partners with a Somali food safety consultant who pioneered Somali CFPM training. Because the Somali culture is orally based, the training has a verbal, hands-on learning style. Many immigrants have never taken a U.S. style standardized test, so the training includes test taking skills. Over 200 Somali food workers have taken the class.
Spanish Common Violations Trainings: Two Latino MEH health inspectors developed a Spanish language hands-on course on common food safety mistakes. This class is tailored to food workers, as opposed to CFPM training designed more for managers. Nearly 150 Spanish-speaking food workers have taken the training.
In-house Training for High Violators
MEH hires local food safety consultants to conduct hands-on, in-house training personalized to businesses with high numbers of violations. This intensive hand-on training program focuses on the violations noted in recent inspection reports such as handwashing, food flow, cooling, foodborne illness prevention, date marking, reheating, and hot holding. Since 2016, 78 businesses have participated in the training. Of those, 75% had the training conducted entirely or partially in Spanish, Somali, Lao, Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Egyptian Arabic, Telugu, and Bengali.
Additionally, MEH created resources such as temperature logs, checklists, and food safety posters in multiple languages. All materials are easily accessed on the City’s food safety webpage.
Intentionally contaminated food is considered a “weapon of mass destruction” by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) for its ability to negatively impact large numbers of people. MEH wove the components of food defense into all planning phases when hosting three of the biggest games in American sports: MLB All-Star Game (2014), NFL Super Bowl LII (2018) and NCAA Final Four (2019). This included assessing vulnerabilities in the plans to feed hundreds of police officers, first responders, and federal agents deployed for these events.
MEH partnered with the University of Minnesota Food Protection and Defense Institute to host intentional food contamination table top exercises for US Bank Stadium, Minneapolis Convention Center, and major music venues. Table top players included venue management, food and bar service and security; FBI; Civil Air Patrol; local fire and police; National Guard; state and local health inspectors and epidemiologists; and others.
MEH offered free food safety and defense training to large event venues and local food businesses. Additionally, free online food safety training was offered to businesses and event organizers for all their food service staff.
Specialized Processes in Chef-driven Restaurants
MEH inspectors began creating Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) templates and hosting HACCP plan writing and training sessions in 2014. MEH coordinated with the state to create templates for oxygen packaging, sous vide cooking, curing using sodium nitrites, cook-chill processes, fermentation, and acidification.
The templates show operators how to conduct a hazard analysis and draft a HACCP plan. Once a draft is submitted, a HACCP team member works with the business operator through plan approval. The process generally involves on-site meetings, further education, and revising the draft several times to meet concise HACCP requirements. MEH has approved approximately 120 HACCP plans.
MEH has relied on its guiding principles to develop food safety and culturally relevant training for businesses and individuals. Our work has truly been a collaborative public and private effort. Together with our partners, MEH lives our values and supports our businesses to improve public health protection.
Learn more and find free resources on the MEH food safety webpage.