Mandarin Chinese has been added to English as a language used in food- safety training for restaurant and other food vendors in the Mahoning Valley, and classes in Spanish are in the works.
Training in languages other than English reflects the growing number of restaurants in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties owned and operated by people whose first language is not English, said Mary Helen Smith, director of environmental health for the Mahoning County District Board of Health.
The first Level I Food Safety training in the area, using manuals and videos translated into Mandarin Chinese, was conducted last month by Beth Stefura, Ohio State University Extension Office educator, in Canfield.
The one-day class at Mill Creek MetroParks Farm, 7574 Columbiana-Canfield Road (state Route 46) across from the Canfield Fairgrounds was attended by representatives from several Chinese restaurants in Mahoning County, Smith said.
Training materials and posters, created for placement in food-preparation areas in the restaurants, are in Mandarin because it is the dominant common language in Asia and understood not only by Chinese but also Koreans and others, Smith said.
Mandarin is the official language of mainland China and Taiwan and is one of the official languages of Singapore and the United Nations.
Smith said the same Level I training is provided in English to other area restaurant owners and food vendors.
Stefura said the Ohio Department of Health requires that people in charge of shifts in new food-service operations, such as restaurants, health-care facilities and grocery stores, receive Level I food-safety training.
Retraining is recommended for current food-serving establishments, especially if there has been a sanitation concern.
County health-department sanitarians inspect food vendors, such as restaurants and food stands that set up at the Canfield Fair for adherence to major food-safety principles, including time and temperature, cross-contamination and personal hygiene.
The Level I training also will be helpful to the sanitarians because they know restaurant personnel have been trained, Smith said.
Stefura said some of the restaurant people who attended the first Mandarin class said they plan to send co-workers to the next session being planned for October. The fee is $100. People who want to register should call Stefura at 330-533-5538.
Also, she said Level I training in Spanish is being planned. A lot of the materials needed have already been translated from English to Spanish, she said.
Smith said the training collaboration between the OSU Extension Office in Canfield and the county health department occurred because she learned the Columbus Public Health Department and the OSU Extension Office had presented a similar class in the Columbus area. Locally, a translator was used to help overcome the language barrier.
Stefura said the Level 1 course went very well.
“I was grateful to start with just five, as I had not taught the class before,” she said.
The participants responded well to the information, were eager to learn and were a great audience with a good understanding of food safety.
“We clarified some confusion about required food temperatures for cooking and keeping [food] warm, how to detect contamination when accepting food deliveries, and cross-contamination,” Stefura said.
For example, there needs to be separate sinks for washing hands, pots and pans and foods to prevent possible cross-contamination, she said.
This was a great partnership with the health department, Stefura said.