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Conference seeks to prevent foodborne illness

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - In conjunction with Guam Food Safety Education Month, the Department of Public Health and Social Services' Division of Environmental Health is hosting three free conferences "Cook and Chill to Prevent Being Ill." According to Environmental Health Specialist Supervisor Rosanna Rabago, the two-day training will result in less food borne illnesses on the island.

She said, "This is our current regulations for both retail food establishments and eating and drinking facilities, everything from restaurants to retail stores caterers manufacturers what have you. This is what we're moving towards our presentation is moving toward adopting the Model Food Code, so you can see the significance in volume and material in terms of what is the new set of criteria that Guam is wanting to do in our proposed Guam Food Code."

Environmental Health Specialist Supervisor Ron Carandang says there are five risk factors that result in food borne illnesses which include food from unapproved sources, inadequate cooking, improper holding temperatures, contaminated cooking, and poor personal hygiene. Caranadang says most cases of food borne illness go unreported, noting, "They usually have symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and like I said there's a lot of people getting sick, and they're not reported. When they are reported and we receive information we conduct our food borne investigation and we find out the source regarding the food borne illness."

Guam statistics for the past year have yet to be finalized but will include the hundreds of students from the island's Southern District, who were contaminated when they ate King's Restaurant's egg salad for lunch.

For Ike Santos, DOE's federal programs administrator, adapting the new food code is critical to moving forward from past mistakes and taking extra preventative measures to ensure the safety of the students. "Our role here is to ensure that the requirements and regulations that Public Health is enforcing," he said. "We comply with the new food guidelines that they're soon to implement that we're on top of it…after all dealing with school children they are the most susceptible and critical areas in which we need to ensure they're protected

Santos and his staff are already planning to collaborate with Public Health to train cafeteria workers come the first staff development day of the school year. More events are to follow Food Safety Month, including a food safety education fair scheduled for September 24 from 10am to 2pm at the Micronesia Mall. For more information call the Division of Environmental Health at 735-7221.

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