RETAILERS SIGN UP FOR FOOD SAFETY COURSE

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Several retailers in the Northeast have enrolled their associates in safe food-handling classes funded by the New Jersey Department of Labor.More than 4,000 people have completed the class since the first Department of Labor grant was awarded a little more than two years ago, said Keith Wilson, assistant director, Rutgers University, Cook College's Office of Continuing Professional

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Several retailers in the Northeast have enrolled their associates in safe food-handling classes funded by the New Jersey Department of Labor.

More than 4,000 people have completed the class since the first Department of Labor grant was awarded a little more than two years ago, said Keith Wilson, assistant director, Rutgers University, Cook College's Office of Continuing Professional Education. Wegmans Food Markets, Rochester, N.Y.; Food Circus, Middletown, N.J.; King's Super Markets, Parsippany, N.J.; Acme Markets, Malvern, Pa.; ShopRite Supermarkets, Edison, N.J.; and Pathmark Stores, Carteret, N.J., are among chains represented in the classes. Pathmark recently scheduled two classes for associates at Pathmark sites.

"It's a good opportunity," Wilson said. "It does not cost the retailer anything."

Retailers and their associates who have taken the eight-hour course say it's worthwhile, he added.

"We try to make it fun, and our evaluation by attendees has been stellar," Wilson said. "A good 98% rate the class 'good' or 'excellent.' And we know they leave enlightened. We're required to give them a test in the morning and one in the afternoon. On the test in the morning, they usually score in the 40s, which surprised us. But then by the afternoon, their scores are in the mid-to-high 80s."

The class covers the value of temperature and time in food handling, cross contamination, hand washing and the use of gloves.

"I might ask who's right-handed and who's left-handed," Wilson said. "And then I ask them which hand they wash more thoroughly. For the right-handed people, it's always their left hand they wash better because they're used to doing things with their right hand. We try to make them think about things they're doing -- or not doing -- subconsciously."

The course was designed by the New Jersey Food Council, an industry group representing the state's retailers, the New Jersey Department of Health and Rutgers Food Science and Continuing Professional Education departments.

Wilson talked to a group at the Eastern Perishable Product Association's Show 'N Sell expo here.