Local resident serves up food safety knowledge

Local resident serves up food safety knowledge

SCITUATE - Hope resident and food expert Fred T. Faria will present a series of classes on food safety, aimed in particular at nonprofits and leading to national certification, starting April 7 at Shepherd of the Valley Church.

"It's not common sense anymore," Faria says of food safety. "It takes knowledge." And how does one obtain that knowledge? "You should learn from someone who knows the business."

Faria, a certified executive chef, is the retired chairman of food service management at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, where he spent 39 years also as a chef and professor. He is retired, but finds he cannot "just sit back and watch TV" so he is once again devoting his time to the subject he loves and knows best: food and how best to serve it.

"There is nothing more hospitable than inviting someone into your restaurant and knowing it will be safe and enjoyable for them," said Faria, who sports on his lapel and on his business cards a pineapple, a universal sign of hospitality.

His business, Faria Associates, specializes in food and beverage training and consulting, including food safety certification and recertification, and is operated from Faria's home in town. He offers online and classroom training.

Faria is hoping that members of nonprofit organizations, particularly the volunteers who play such a large role in Scituate's special events, such as the annual arts festival, will take advantage of his classes. "They're wonderful people preparing it, all volunteers - God bless their souls - but let's give them a little bit of knowledge. Let's raise the bar a little bit more," he said. Classes would be helpful for Scouting groups and the fire stations, which often offer meals and suppers to raise money, Faria suggested.

Rhode Island has strict laws regulating food safety. For instance, in what Faria calls the "Julian Rule" in honor of the man who proposed it, Ernest Julian, chief of the state office of food protection: Every food establishment must have at least one full-time, on-site food safety manager if potentially hazardous foods are served. Hazardous foods include, for instance, poultry and dairy products, meats and fish.

Any organization, including fundraisers for nonprofits, must receive a license from the state health department when certain food is served. This and other food safety laws apply to "any place that serves even a burger," Faria said.

Food safety managers are required to be recertified every three years. Certification requires at least 15 hours of instruction in the classroom and passing a nationally recognized examination. Some hotels, Faria said, will not allow a wedding cake on the premises unless prepared by a person certified in food safety.

Local residents will remember the zeppole incidents in April 2011, when the creamy pastries from one local bakery showed symptoms of salmonella infection with deaths resulting, but there are others seldom publicized.

In 2012 in Rhode Island, 10 people died from foodbourne illness with 428 hospitalized and 160,000 taken ill, the state health department reports. Nationally, the Center for Disease Control says there are 48 million cases of foodborne illness per year, with 128,000 hospitalized and the cost to business estimated at $77.7 billion annually.

Faria believes that opportunities for food-related illness are on the increase because more food is consumed in public while take-out venues and restaurants remain plentiful.

The first round of Faria's classes runs Monday nights, 7 to 9 p.m., April 7 through May 26, as a blend of classes and online lessons including four class meetings plus the national exam. Cost is $169, $10 less than usual to encourage nonprofit participation, Faria said. He is planning a second round July 1 through Sept. 1. He can be reached at 401-828-5355, ftfaria001@gmail.com.