Penn State Housing and Food Services places special emphasis on food safety.
To ensure that we meet the highest standards in all aspects of food service, our food, equipment, and facilities are inspected regularly. Inspections include a review of the facility, practices, food handling process, food storage process, food preparation process, equipment, food temperatures, and employee practices.
Food Service Sanitation Course
Food handlers, directors, and managers are required to pass a Food Service Sanitation course sponsored by the National Restaurant Association. This course stresses the importance of safe food storage, handling, and preparation of food. Please see the Food Safety FAQs below.
Food service operations conduct monthly inspections and monitor equipment and serving line food temperatures. Once a semester, the food service operation and the central warehouse and bakery at University Park are also inspected (unannounced) by a professionally trained HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) team. Other organizations may conduct impromptu inspections as well.
Food Safety FAQs
Where do you get your meat products?
What grade do you use?
Are they USDA approved?
Meat products are purchased using specifications recommended by the USDA Meat Buyers' Guide. All meats, including boxed meats, have specifications that the vendor must meet. We purchase only beef that meets USDA Choice requirements (USDA grading consists of Prime, Choice, Select, and Cutter). This standard is higher than several national steak house chains.
We purchase meat products from reliable local cutters, and our ground beef comes from a nationally known meat processing company. We also purchase poultry products from reliable nationally known companies.
How do you ensure the quality of your produce?
We purchase produce using predetermined specifications, and our staff inspects all produce orders thoroughly upon delivery to ensure it meets or exceeds specifications.
Are your meals prepared on campus?
Yes, all meals are prepared on campus in food-service kitchens and service areas, unless they are prepackaged items. All breads, hamburger rolls, hot dog buns, and other baked items come from a local bakery. Many dessert items, such as cookies, cakes, pies, Jell-O, and pudding, are made fresh daily. Some dessert items from manufacturers are served as well.
Food Services uses a computer program called FoodPro (from Aurora Systems) to provide standardized recipes for our cooks. This program provides a nutritional analysis of all food products and recipes served. Recipes are developed by our corporate executive chef. We continually add new products to the menu, but only after we have sampled and tested them. See the Nutrition section for more information.
Who does the cooking?
What qualifications does Penn State require from their cooks?
The cooking staff is made up of full-time technical service employees. The lead cooks are Food Preparer A's, and assistant cooks are called Food Preparer B's. To be hired as a cook they must pass a culinary exam. Our cooks must also pass the National Restaurant Association's Applied Foodservice Sanitation course. In addition, all storeroom workers, food service workers, and management staff are required to take this course.
Who supervises meal quality?
Do you have sanitation guidelines for your facilities?
Are Penn State's facilities inspected regularly and what are the results?
A professional management staff supervises each and every meal. Over 90 percent of our management staff have degrees in either food service management, restaurant and hotel administration, nutrition, or business management. They are required to take the Applied Foodservice Sanitation program, as well as participate in all culinary training programs. The management staff requires food servers and preparers to monitor cooking and holding temperatures of all hot entrees and cold foods (salad bar and deli bar, for example) throughout the meal. These temperatures are recorded on logs and kept for two years. All staff is expected to handle food properly, including wearing plastic gloves when handling food, and wearing proper hair restraints, clean uniforms, and aprons.
Monthly sanitation inspections of each unit are also required. Once a semester, the food service operation, the central warehouse, and the bakery at University Park are also inspected (unannounced) by a professionally trained HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) team. A complete HACCP Inspection is performed, which requires examination of food temperatures, storage and handling, personal hygiene of food handlers, and consistent temperature monitoring.
What is foodborne illness?
Many different foodborne illnesses can result when food is handled or stored improperly. Bacteria are most often involved in a foodborne illness outbreak. Although the symptoms of each foodborne illness vary, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever are often present. It usually takes several hours to several days before most foodborne illness symptoms occur.
What does Penn State do to prevent foodborne illness?
Penn State Food Services requires every full-time food service employee to be certified in ServSafe. This requires taking an intense 2½-day course developed by the National Restaurant Association's Education Foundation and passing an examination. Employees receive a certificate after passing the exam and are certified for five years.
Every food service operation is inspected each semester by a trained team of sanitation inspectors (unannounced visits) and monthly by an in-house team of employees and staff.
Maintaining safe cooking and holding temperatures of hot and cold food is a priority for us. Throughout every meal period, food temperatures are monitored and recorded in each operation. If temperatures are not within acceptable ranges, the food is either reheated to 165 degrees F° or discarded.
Reliable Food Sources
Purchased food must meet certain specifications set by our Purchasing Department before it's accepted by the Housing and Food Services warehouse and each unit. Once it is delivered to the individual food service operation (dining commons or snack bar), it is inspected again before being received.
What should I do if I suspect I have foodborne illness?
Food service is our business, and we take it very seriously. If a customer suspects a foodborne illness, we want to know about it and investigate it immediately. If you are a Penn State student and suspect foodborne illness, please contact or visit Housing and Food Services and University Health Services immediately. Procedures for such incidents are in place, and we work with the Penn State Environmental Health and Safety Department to investigate these claims.