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The Agriculturist

Know Safety Meand No Harm

Kelsey Reed

Know Safety Meand No Harm

Stepping into Lubbock restaurants, they are not concerned with the daily deals listed on the menu or happy hour specials. With notepads in hand, their eyes begin to scan for the potential health hazards that may lurk behind the kitchen doors. The specially-trained duo not only works for the restaurant, but is also working to provide a safer environment for the consumer.

The consulting company provides inspections to food service locations during hours of operation in an attempt to correct any health code violations, improper food handling, or storage that might be occurring. After the inspection, VIP Food Safety customizes an individual plan of action for each location.

"When entering an establishment, the most important step is to first establish trust with the client," Jodi Halter said. "No one likes for someone to come to their territory and tell them what they have been doing wrong, but what makes us different is we can also explain to them how to correct the problem."

Halter said explaining the laws of food sanitation can be challenging since the problems cannot be seen, smelt or heard. She believes most mistakes are caused by lack of education.

"To be in the restaurant business you have to have the love of serving people," Halter said. "I just don"t believe anyone in the industry would want to make a customer sick."

Both Halter and Ansen Pond were working toward their master"s degrees in food science when Halter decided to take a chance on this new partnership.

Halter began consulting independently for restaurants in 2007, but three years later decided to join efforts with Pond. Halter said she was at first hesitant toward the idea of a business partner, but Pond"s persistence and passion convinced her otherwise.

"In my mind I knew the passion I had for food sanitation," she said, "but I just didn"t know if anyone else could share my passion and desire to help the public overcome any obstacle in the industry."

With passions in ranching and research, Pond represents the production and laboratory sectors of the industry, while Halter serves as an experienced voice for the retail and food service sectors. The unique partnership would prove to be a successful conversation in their future business ventures.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration estimates there are 48 million cases of food borne illness each year, which is the equivalent to one in six Americans each year. With the number of food service establishments growing in the Lubbock area, Pond said he believes the goals of VIP Food Safety to be crucial elements in consumer safety.

The main objective of VIP Food Safety is to benefit the consumer by creating a more sanitary and knowledgeable environment within the food service industry. Through corrections, consultations, and educational trainings, restaurants that use VIP Food Safety will offer the safest product possible and promote consumer health.

The first step in the plan is a meeting held between management and VIP Food Safety to discuss the products, routines, and other aspects of the retail location. Pond said it is only when the client agrees there is a need for change and education that the process can begin.

Next, a personalized educational program is designed for the business, along with an extensive inspection of their facilities. By designing the plan prior to the visit, they can conduct their training and address specific issues to the employees as the action occurs.

"When I walk into an establishment and I see an employee preparing food in a way that could potentially hurt someone, it makes me angry," Pond said. "If the right measures are taken, food borne illnesses are preventable"no one should ever get sick."

VIP Food Safety is also used to close the gap in communication between academics and the food service industry. Halter and Pond would like the perspective of science to be applied to the practices of the food industry.

"My biggest concern is the public"s lack of knowledge in regards to personal food safety skills," Pond said. "You don"t know what the problems are that need to be corrected if you don"t know what the issues are first."

Halter said she believes the biggest obstacle to overcome in the industry is the consumer, because they are often reluctant to discuss food borne illnesses until someone is hospitalized.

"As consumers, we don"t want to think about the possibility of food borne illnesses are real," Halter said, "but they are just as real and deadly as car accidents, heart attacks, and cancer."

© 2012 Texas Tech Department of Agricultural Education & Communications