Since beginning my time with Cooperative Extension, I frequently get calls from those in the food service industry needing a “ServSafe course ASAP!” due to an expired or soon to be expired certification. You might stop reading here because you have no concern about food safety or the food service industry, but hang in there, you should be concerned about food safety and the trainings that local food establishments can attend to keep us safer.

Why is it important? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in 6 people in the United States (or 48 million people) get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die each year from foodborne diseases. Those calls I receive are inquiring about trainings we offer through North Carolina Cooperative Extension that help them purchase, receive, handle, prepare and store food more safely. 

For years we have offered ServSafe trainings but within the last year, we have been transitioning over to a new food safety course known as Safe Plates for Food Managers, which was developed at N.C. State University.

Safe Plates for Food Managers prepares managers for the National Registry of Food Safety Professionals Certification Exam. This exam is used across the country and is one of a handful approved by the American National Standards Institution (ANSI). Of course, after explaining this new training to interested parties, I invariably hear, “Is that the same as ServSafe?”

Glad you asked.

ServSafe manager training and the SafePlates for Food Managers training program are both based on the learning standards as set forth by the Conference for Food Protection. They both utilize exams accredited by ANSI and meet the FDA Food Code 2017 requirement for a Certified Food Protection Manager. Safe Plates is the N. C. State Extension family of food safety programs and is rooted in behavior-change rather than just memorization of answers and regurgitation of information. Managers and food industry staff trained with the Safe Plates for Food Managers course are equipped to create an environment that minimizes food safety risks in their food establishments through best practices, open communication and practical, science and regulatory-based knowledge.

Who should take the Safe Plates for Food Managers course? Anyone who is a manager in the food service industry, Person in Charge, or anyone looking to further their food safety knowledge, is encouraged to take the course. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Agents across North Carolina offer Safe Plates programming regularly, often in partnership with the local health departments. Here in Iredell County, Cooperative Extension maintains close communication with Kim Mecimore and Hugh Smith of the Environmental Health: Food Protection & Facilities Program. I encourage participants to communicate with our Food Protection department when they have questions or concerns. Oftentimes, these specialists are feared by people in the food service industry, but our Environmental Health team is here to ensure that those who frequent local food service establishments have safe food to eat.

I hope this has got you thinking more about food safety as it relates to you as a consumer and/or you as employed in the food service industry.

The next Safe Plates for Food Managers two-day training is being offered Oct. 1 and 8. The registration deadline is Sept. 23. If you or someone you know needs to be certified or recertified as a Food Protection Manager, please contact the Iredell County Cooperative Extension office at 704-878-3157. You can also contact me via email at to get more information.

Andrea Sherrill is the Family and Consumer Science Agent for the Iredell County North Carolina Cooperative Extension

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