About half of all beef in the U.S. is consumed away from home, based on data obtained through the national Beef Checkoff Program. Partnering with foodservice operators to assure beef is wholesome when sold to consumers. That's the concept behind a program called ServSafe, a checkoff-supported program which enhances the food-safety knowledge of foodservice workers.
In fact, food safety is the primary priority for the Joint Foodservice Committee, a group of beef producers charged with providing recommendations for beef checkoff-funded foodservice program initiatives. The $1-per-head checkoff is administered by the Cattlemen's Beef Board with oversight provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"There are more than 900,000 individual foodservice locations in this country, and most of those serve beef," says 2005 Foodservice Committee Chairman Sid Sumner, a Florida beef producer. "We want to work with foodservice professionals to assure practices that put our products in the best light. This includes food safety training that educates and motivates managers."
ServSafe is coordinated by the International Food Safety Council, a division of the National Restaurant Associational Educational Foundation. During the last year, more than 300,000 managers and employees took the course, now in use by more than 80% of the foodservice industry. More than 2.5 million foodservice professionals have already been trained through the ServSafe certification program â€“ an important figure in an industry that at some levels has turnover that can exceed 100% in any given year.
ServSafe addresses biosecurity, personal hygiene, best practices for inspecting and receiving shipments, storage and handling, preparation and serving, avoidance of cross-contamination and other issues important to optimizing food safety. The program is based on the Food Code of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is firmly grounded in the real world needs and everyday applications of the foodservice industry.
ServSafe is recognized by more federal, state and local jurisdictions that require food safety manager training or certification than any other program. Along with enhancing food safety, the program helps improve employee morale, maintain food quality and contribute to customer satisfaction.
Professionals in the beef industry responsible for beef presentations and promotion programs also participate in this food safety training. Through the NRAEF dozens of state beef council executives and professionals at beef organizations and other groups take the course to assure that those who demonstrate the product are the best possible ambassadors for beef practices.
"As founding sponsors of the ServSafe program, America's Beef Producers are backing up their commitment to food safety all along the beef marketing chain through our Beef Checkoff Program," says Sumner. Al Svajgr, chairman of the Cattlemen's Beef Board, agrees.
"We need to do everything we can to leverage checkoff dollars in a way that ensures food safety at the point of preparation and service, which is the last step from farm to fork," according to Svajgr, a Nebraska beef producer. "This is part of our commitment to provide safe beef to consumers and to protect beef demand for our producers."