MASON CITY, Iowa – RAGBRAI, county fairs, and barbecue bash all have one thing in common; food. Folks line up at vendor’s windows for good eats, but you have to make sure that the food is safe. Brian Hanft is an expert on keeping people safe when eating at county fairs and local events. He knows exactly what to look for.
“Some things that we’re looking for are, of course, personal hygiene. Making sure that the food service workers are washing their hands, and wearing gloves when they need to,” says Environmental Health Services Manager, Brian Hanft.
He says, you definitely don’t want that cross contamination from raw to cooked meat. Equally as important as hand washing though, is the temperature of the food.
“We also make sure that the food is cooked hot and it’s kept cold. We make sure that everything is kept in coolers or refrigerators, those sorts of things,” says Hanft.
He says hot food needs to be kept above 165 degrees, while cold food should be less than 41 degrees. If it sits between those temperatures, it can become contaminated quickly. Scott Nelson isn’t new to the vendor scene, and he knows how important it is to keep food at the right temperature.
“If the food is sitting at the middle temperature for too long, it gets exposed to bacteria and microorganisms that are never good for your stomach. You don’t want to be sitting on the toilet all day tomorrow after the barbecue,” says BBQ Bash vendor, Scott Nelson.
His team makes sure to get their smokers up to 275 degrees before they put their meat in. That way it gets hot right away.
“Safety is our number one priority. We always try to get our meat up to temp as fast as possible, and if we don’t sell it all, we cool it down as fast as possible,” says Nelson.
If you’re ever questioning an item purchased from a vendor, Hanft has some advice.
“You need to make sure that when you buy something, that it is hot. If the food is warm or it’s cold, and if it feels like it’s not quite temperature correct, then take it back and ask for another product,” says Hanft.
He says in his experience, people do a pretty good job at keeping their customers safe.
“There might always be a few hiccups. People are people, so that’s what we’re there to do. We try to help them out, but for the most part, we have good operators that are providing food,” says Hanft.
According to the center for disease control, around 3000 people die from food borne illnesses each year.