I Can Touch Your Food

As part of my epic post-ISC (Incredibly Successful Career) journey I recently took and passed the state of Washington test to become a food worker.  That means I can now work in any restaurant and handle food.  By the way, even if you are a cashier, host/hostess, sommelier or owner … you gotta have one.  I wonder if Tom Douglas has a food worker’s permit? 

This was more about the experience of taking the exam than whether I’m going to be the next sous chef at Dahlia Lounge. But hey, now I have options I didn’t have before … like working the concession stand at high school football games.   By the way, I took it with my 17-year-old son who aced it, while I missed three.  It takes six misses to fail so I’m way good but will probably have to work for my son.

The room was about 60-40 women to men.  The women tended to be 40+ years old, overweight and English was not their first language.  The men were almost all high school/college age except me and one man who spoke very little English. 

The process involved reading a 20-page food safety booklet and then taking the test.  Some people didn’t even open the booklet and took the test.  I think they were re-taking the test or renewing their permit.  Others were reading for well over an hour.  I finished reading after about 40 minutes. 

There was a lot of stuff about wearing gloves and changing gloves and making sure the gloves were not used for changing the oil in your car — or your hair.  And there was a section devoted to all the bacteria and germs that can be transmitted because of poor food handling.  By the way, after this I will never, ever patronize a salad bar again.

There are a lot of rules about food temperature.  For example, the “danger zone” is between 41 degrees and 140 degrees.  Since most bacteria won’t grow in extreme hot or cold temperatures, food left in the danger zone is when bacteria grows that make people sick.  So leaving milk and raw hamburger out on a counter is a bad idea. 

You get the idea.  It’s pretty much common sense.  When I nervously picked up my test questions from one of the two women monitoring the class I was relieved when I saw the questions.  For example, here’s one from the test:

You should always wear gloves when handling food because:

A.  They look attractive

B. Customers are  more comfortable seeing them on restaurant employees

C.  They prevent the spread of germs 

D.  None of the above

I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t need to study to get that question right. 

When I finished, I turned my test in to the woman and she graded it right there in front of the “students.”  I just stood there quietly while she checked off my answers and felt 30 pairs of eyes staring at my back.  I know because each time someone turned their test in, I watched to see how they did. 

One guy turned his test in and missed almost all the questions.  He seemed stunned.  Then he started to question the results … in very bad English.  It appeared that he probably couldn’t understand the questions because he couldn’t understand what they were saying to him.  Not sure what his language was.  I think it might have been something Middle Eastern.  He wanted to go through each question and answer and get an explanation.  They told him he should get a tutor or someone to help him understand the booklet and test.  He left looking quite distraught.

Here’s the kicker:  He was renewing  his permit.  


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Craig on April 13, 2011 at 10:01 am

    I never would have known that these tests existed. Congratulations, I always wanted to wear the headset at a McDonald’s drive thru so let me know how that works out. As for salad bars, I don’t eat anything that is protected by a “sneeze screen” anyways.

    I’d be interested in your next blog to read your suggestions on what else people should be tested for. The food handling gig seems more efficient than the DMV though.


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