It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:
I am about four months into a new job, and my coworkers have been very nice and easy to work with. However, I am very concerned about the way that they manage food safety. We are going to have a potluck soon and I don’t think I can bring myself to eat anything after witnessing various food-safety related incidents. They also have a tendency to frequently offer leftovers to other departments and guests in our office park, which is making me increasingly worried an unassuming person could get sick.
1. About three weeks into my new job, someone brought a meat/cheese platter to an all-staff meeting. The meeting was postponed to later in the day, so someone left the platter in the conference room for four hours. Then, during the meeting people passed around and ate the visibly sweating and warm meat and cheese. I politely declined each time it was passed to me on account that I had just eaten lunch and I am a vegetarian, but they kept offering the cheese.
2. We had an off-site meeting that had catered sandwiches delivered at 11:30 am. There were a bunch of leftovers but no way for them to be refrigerated. When the meeting ended at 4, I went to throw them away, but my director stopped me. I said they were not safe to eat anymore because we wouldn’t return to the office until 7 pm. He insisted that someone take them to not waste them and ended up dispersing them to other staff and interns. Some of those sandwiches and salads were brought back to the office the next day and shared with other departments.
3. Another higher-up placed raw chicken on the countertops of a break room that is shared with many different companies in my office park. She wiped the juices up with a dry paper towel.
4. Someone brought bagels and cream cheese, and the cream cheese was left out for eight hours a day for three days.
5. When traveling, people left their leftovers in the hot car for five hours and then ate them later in the day.
I am absolutely appalled by the lack of awareness of food safety amongst my peers. I’ve tried politely sharing what I know (I have a ServSafe Manager Certification from a past job), but they laugh it off or argue that food shouldn’t be wasted. I don’t feel comfortable accepting any perishables or honestly unpackaged food based on the incidents I have witnessed.
Aside from being seriously concerned that someone could get seriously ill, between being the only person who declined to participate in an office weight loss challenge (*sigh*) and refusing food offerings, I’m starting to feel like I am alienating myself as a new staff member, or coming across as someone with very weird food behaviors. I’ve even caught myself humoring the idea of scheduling a doctor’s appointment during the potluck so I don’t have to deal with it. I truly have no idea how to handle this.
Readers, what’s your advice?
I’m worried my coworkers’ food handling is going to make someone seriously ill was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.