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Striving to make food safety fun

WASHINGTON Clyde’s Restaurant Group likes to make it fun for employees to learn about food safety.

The 13-restaurant company holds an annual hand-washing contest with a prize of $1,200 for the winning four-person team. The contest includes a quiz on food safety topics.

The latest project focuses on training about illnesses that can be passed from staff to guest, and food allergies.

“Two big issues in the industry right now are employee health and allergens,” said Victoria Griffith, director of quality assurance for Clyde's.

To help employees remember the top five foodborne illnesses, the company recently staged a contest to come up with a memory aid. The winner from among 11 entries was “SNESH.” It stands for salmonella, norovirus, E. coli, shigella and hepatitis.

For allergens, the winner was a phrase, “Food problems will send the EMS.” That stands for fish, peanuts, wheat, soy, tree nuts, eggs, milk and shellfish. These new memory devices will be featured on posters and other internal training materials.

“We have taken a proactive approach and stay ahead of the curve,” Griffith said. The company does frequent internal audits of each restaurant, and has separate audits conducted by a third party once a quarter.

Clyde’s also has established a food safety committee that meets monthly to address food safety and employee safety issues. Members include a representative from the back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house of each restaurant. Griffith said there are also “food safety ambassadors” from among the hourly staff.

In another training tactic, whenever foodborne illness grabs headlines, Griffith uses it as a teaching tool to underscore the importance of following procedures. She has news stories copied and faxed to all locations to the general managers, executive chefs, and safety committee members.

“We don’t want to be in the headlines,” she said.

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