It is a treat to eat out at a favorite restaurant or community event. Consumers expect the food to be safe. It is up to the food handlers to provide the safest meal possible.

Preparing food for the public, whether at a volunteer group fundraiser, or at a restaurant, often means dealing with larger quantities of food than those used at home. With larger amounts of food, different food practices and special attention to detail become critical.

The Cottonwood Extension District will offer a Servsafe basic food handler short course for food service employees and volunteer groups from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. May 17 in Hays. Due to renovation at the Extension Office, the class will be held in the Commission Room on the lower level of the Ellis County Administrative Center, 718 Main. Park and enter on the east side of the building.

The cost is $10 per person and includes the Servsafe Food Handler Guide, a nationally-recognized food safety training resource, plus class materials and refreshments.

The class covers basic food safety principles, personal hygiene, preventing cross-contamination, time and temperature controls, cleaning and sanitation, and food allergens. This course would be appropriate for commercial food service employees; dietary staff at nursing homes, hospitals and schools; and volunteer groups who serve concession stands, church dinners, community meals or fund-raisers. This class has no formal exam and does not provide national certification, however, a certificate of attendance will be provided to each participant.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates each year one in six Americans gets sick from a foodborne illness. On average, 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 people die from something they eat every year. Foodborne illness is highly under-reported, and outbreaks DO happen in Kansas.

The economic impact of foodborne illness is staggering. The CDC estimates that foodborne illness costs $15.5 billion annually, which includes factors such as direct medical costs, lost wages, time lost, and pain and suffering. That makes the average cost of one foodborne illness incident about $77,000. Proper food safety is important to reduce illness, but also to protect the reputation and reduce costs and legal repercussions for those who serve food to the public.

Plan now to attend the upcoming Servsafe food handler training. Register and pay fees by May 3 at the Extension Office, 601 Main, Hays, to allow for ordering training materials and class supplies. Drop-ins cannot be accommodated for this class. Enrollment is considered complete when fees are paid. A minimum attendance is required by the deadline to hold this class.

Obtain a registration form at www.cottonwood.ksu.edu in the right box under “Upcoming Events.” For more information, call the Hays Extension Office at (785) 628-9430.

Linda K. Beech is Cottonwood District Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.