Food, beverage classes offered: Education key for First District Health Unit

Food handling and beverage server classes are conducted by the First District Health Unit. Left to right are Renae Byre, director of health promotions, Jake Windsor, environmental health specialist, and Margie Zietz, law enforcement coordinator. All three work for First District Health Unit. Kim Fundingsland/MDN\

Proper food handling and responsible beverage serving are two areas of concern for the First District Health Unit. The health agency hosts classes for both topics on a monthly basis and makes a year round effort aimed at promoting public safety, both from food borne illnesses and servers of adult beverages.

Renae Byre, director of health promotions, says it is important work.

“We know that if we can implement a responsible beverage server training class to all people who serve alcohol we can reduce the rate of our youth that are dying,” said Byre. “We lose a lot of kids, mostly kids, to drinking and driving and we know our classes can reduce that.”

Classes for beverage servers are offered the first Thursday of each month at the First District Health Unit. Classes are also offered in the seven county area that is the responsibility of First District.

“A lot of servers don’t realize how important their job is and how important it is to take it seriously,” said Margie Zietz, law enforcement coordinator for First District. “We give them all sorts of tips and ideas of how not to over-serve customers.”

Additionally, says Zietz, an important message to all servers is that they can be held liable, both under criminal and civil law, if a customer who drank too much alcohol is involved in an accident resulting in injury or death.

“There’s more of these civil lawsuits than most people know,” said Zietz. “Many of them are settled out of court.”

Among the lessons taught during alcohol server training sessions, which are about two hours in length, is how to recognize false identification. With today’s technology some false ID’s are almost impossible to detect. Fortunately, there’s technology available to help counter the problem.

“There’s scanners now, about the size of a television remote, businesses can utilize to check ID’s,” said Zietz. “Just by utilizing them a business gets the reputation of checking ID’s.”

There’s advantages to liquor establishment owners who attend beverage server training classes and have their employees do the same.

“The class dramatically reduces the owner’s liability insurance,” said Byre.

One commonly asked question at the classes, says Zietz, is if it is okay to serve someone alcohol after 12 a.m. if their ID says they turn 21 years old that day. Twenty-one is the legal drinking age in North Dakota. The answer is no.

According to state law a person cannot purchase or consume alcohol until 8 a.m. on the date of their birthday. This prevents birthday binge drinking at establishments between midnight and the 1 a.m. closing time.

“You can’t drink at a bar or buy off-sale under those conditions,” explained Zietz. “We’ve had times when a person would have 21 shots between midnight and 1 a.m. We had five die from alcohol poisoning in one year.”

Jake Windsor, environmental health specialist, concentrates his educational efforts on food safety. Currently he is informing food servers about changes in the 2019 food code as defined by the Food and Drug Administration.

“We’re working to be consistent with the federal code, the state code and the local code,” said Windsor. “That’s one thing the food industry has wanted for a long time, consistency.”

The biggest change in the food code for 2019, at least in terms of garnering the most attention, is the requirement of that any establishment that has over 10 food preparation employees have a certified food protection manager.

“That’s active managerial control, conveying information on food safety and food handling to line cooks and on down,” explained Windsor.

Incidents involving restaurant customers becoming ill from consuming food is rare, but it can happen. Windsor says sanitary food preparation comes down to active managerial control to make sure every employee has the information necessary to stay compliant with proper food handling procedures.

“Anybody that serves food is under the same code, brick and mortar or food trucks. Nothing changes,” said Windsor. “Basically what we’re here for is to be an information resource, to get that info out there.”

Windsor says Minot “has a lot of great food establishments” and credits them with keeping up to date on proper food handling. That praise extends to other venues as well.

“We have big events such as the State Fair and Hostfest. Those are huge events,” remarked Windsor. “Knock on wood, so far we have not had any major outbreaks. It’s a rare occasion when people get diagnosed with salmonela.”

Windsor says First District does regular risk assessments of businesses that serve food.

“It’s not an inspection, but an evaluation,” said Windsor. “We’ll see what’s right and what’s wrong. That’s what they pay their license fee for. We give them options for how to correct things.”

Beverage Server Training

November 21 5-7 p.m.

December 14 4-6 p.m.

Classes held at First District Health Unit Call 852-1376

Free ID scanners offered

Minot Police Crime Prevention Unit 857-4711

Ward County Sheriff’s Department 857-6500

Surrey Police Department 852-4159

McHenry County Sheriff’s Department 537-5633

Renville County Sheriff’s Department 756-6386

McLean County Sheriff’s Department 462-8103

Bottineau County Sheriff’s Department 228-2740

Sheridan County Sheriff’s Department 363-2200

1st District Health Unit 852-1376

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