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Food Briefs . . . Extras at Salad Bar

Self-Service Operations Present Sanitation Problems

December 05, 1985|DANIEL P. PUZO | Times Staff Writer

Salad bars can be the source of potential public health problems, according to a recent study of the popular restaurant phenomenon by the UC Davis Consumer Research Center.

These self-service medleys of cold vegetables and fruit were surveyed in 40 restaurants throughout Northern California, and more than 370 customers were observed in the process of filling their plates.

The report found that there were numerous lapses in sanitation practices and opportunities for accidental contamination.

The UC Davis research team of Susan Carstens and Robert Sommer stated that frequent problems included "people touching the food with their hands, sampling salad dressings with their fingers, eating from plates while in line and returning to the salad bar with used utensils and plates."

Inadequate serving equipment was commonplace and often led to food overflowing from containers or falling off plates.

"This led to people licking their fingers or putting food back (with their hands)," the report stated.

The authors suggest that better restaurant supervision and more signs dictating common health practices might help reduce the problems. However, there was some realization that consumers with poor food-handling practices in the home are unlikely to modify their behavior in restaurants.

"A lot of people don't realize that foods such as cherry tomatoes and celery sticks, which are 'finger foods' at home, aren't necessarily to be eaten that way in a restaurant," Sommer stated.

T-Bones and the Amazon--The changing whims and preferences of American consumers sometime significantly impact the economies of other nations. This relationship is especially acute in developing countries where demand for one product or commodity is enough to make or ruin a fragile economic structure.

Well, ecologists are likely to cheer one such case that is the result of a major dietary evolution in the United States.

During the past 15 years, "vast areas" of the Brazilian Amazon were cleared of tropical rain forest in order to create grazing land for cattle, according to Worldwatch Features. The widespread "environmental devastation" was precipitated by record American consumption and demand for beef.

Between 1961 and 1978, Brazil lost 28 million acres of tropical forest in the Amazon basin for pasture land while the country's cattle population "exploded," the news service reported.

However, the severe ecological change has come to a halt primarily as a result of a drop in the U.S. per capita beef consumption, which has fallen from a 1977 high of 92 pounds per person to about 77 pounds currently. There has also been a corresponding 300,000-ton decline in U.S. beef imports.

"The expansion of cattle production for export to (North America) is no longer driving the destruction of (the tropical rain) forests," Worldwatch revealed.

Dial-A-Sous Chef--The Foodsource Hotline, a free telephone resource service that recommends area restaurants or gourmet stores, is now offering tips on more weighty food matters.

The service recently announced it will begin offering employment information for those seeking "executive kitchen jobs." There is no charge for the referrals provided to out-of-work chefs and managers who are in search of upscale dinner rooms. Foodsource Hotline also intends to mix a bit of real estate advice with its restaurant recommendations.

"If you want to open a restaurant and need some idea where to look; if you're a hotshot chef out of work, or if you have a business you'd like to expand or sell, (then the service) will gladly tell you what they know or who to talk to about your particular need," according to the hot line's announcement.

Those who might need help finding their next restaurant location or sous chef position need only call (213) 930-2111 Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Connoisseurs Via Video--While the Foodsource Hotline is poised to offer investors telephone advice on restaurant locations, Esquire magazine is presenting aspiring gourmands with what amounts to a virtual encyclopedia of wine knowledge on a single home videocassette.

The magazine produced the Esquire Success video line as a means of further polishing the social graces of young professionals. One tape in the collection is "The Wine Advisor: Understanding Wine for Business and Social Entertaining."

With the video's instruction, "even timid novices can become confident selectors of the right wine," the company claims.

In 57 minutes, the Wine Advisor "demystifies and makes easy the process of deciphering imported wine labels, and explains how to properly sample, select and store fine wine."

The tape also tours French, Italian and California wineries, highlights on-camera tastings, features a "humorous commentary" by Dick Cavett and an introduction by Esquire editor-in-chief, Phillip Moffitt.

This all-encompassing wine video volume retails for $29.95.

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