September is National Food Safety Education Month. As we begin this special month, test your knowledge with a couple of questions about food safety and proper food handling.

Q. If you become ill from eating contaminated food, it is the last food you ate that made you sick.

A. This is usually not the case! It can take as short as 30 minutes to as long as six weeks to become sick from unsafe foods, depending on the micro-organisms involved. You usually feel fine immediately after eating and become sick later, when it may be more difficult to determine which food was the illness culprit.

Q. People never used to get sick from the food they ate.

A. Many incidents of foodborne illness went undetected in the past. Symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea were often and still are blamed on "a touch of the flu." (To tell the difference, remember that influenza typically includes respiratory symptoms such as congestion, cough and sore throat, while foodborne illness involves mainly gastro-intestinal distress.) Also, over the years bacteria have changed and some have gotten stronger. And, our food now travels farther with more chances for contamination by bacteria we may not have been exposed to before.

Q: My cooking has never made me sick, so I don't need to worry about feeding it to others.

A: Some people have a greater risk for foodborne illness. A food you can safely eat might make others sick. People with a higher risk for foodborne illness include infants, pregnant women, young children, the elderly, people with weakened immune systems and individuals with certain chronic diseases.

Preparing food for the public, whether at a volunteer group fundraiser or at a restaurant, requires different food handling practices and special attention to detail. To improve food safety in our area, the Finney County Extension Service will team up with the Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association and Pioneer Health Network to offer a short course training session for food handlers.

Grant funds from the Kansas Department on Aging will provide free training to unlicensed staff who currently are employed in a nursing home or long-term care unit of a hospital. More information about KDOA grant guidelines and a list of eligible facilities is available at the Finney County Extension Office, 272-3670.

The Servsafe Employee & Volunteer Short Course will be held from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Sept. 29 at St. Catherine Hospital Classroom 1, Lower Level, 401 E. Spruce St. in Garden City.

The class will cover the basics of safe food handling, including proper food temperatures, personal hygiene, preventing cross-contamination, and cleaning and sanitizing.

The class will be simulcast to partner hospitals of the Pioneer Health Network over their interactive TV system. I will serve as the course instructor. Class size for the classroom at St. Catherine is limited to the first 40 to enroll. The cost is $6 per person, and the registration deadline for all locations is Sept. 18.

Preparing food for the public can be a profitable and rewarding experience. However, safe food practices and special attention to detail are critical to prevent foodborne illness. For more information about this and other Extension food safety classes, call me at the Finney County Extension Office at 272-3670.

Check out the Friday Food Safety Mythbusters every Friday in September on my blog at