Storing and reheating food from outside sources – it’s a “hot topic”

Yummy leftovers…. they taste better the second day, right? All those flavors meld together to make a nice meal the next day, or maybe the day after that. It’s what we do at home. Even if they’re no longer living in their personal residence, people living in long term care communities are used to enjoying leftovers. And it’s their right to do so.

How can we balance food safety with a resident’s choice to enjoy a favorite “leftover”?

There is no one, clear answer to this question. There are many local, state and federal food safety and resident choice regulations that apply to this situation. It is confusing, often times a bit controversial. Therefore, there are many questions surrounding this ‘hot topic’.

Here are some applicable regulations:

F558 – Reasonable accommodation of (resident’s) needs/preferences – Are we “reasonably” trying to accommodate their food choices? Leftovers are clearly food choices and often improve the nutritional status of our resident, at least on a temporary basis.

F561 – Self-determination – Nursing homes should ‘allow’ residents to choose to accept food from any friends, family, visitors, or other guests. Is the resident given the freedom to determine what and how they want to eat?

F584 – safe, clean, homelike environment – Microwaves are a common piece of equipment in almost every kitchen, used frequently by folks of all ages. It is like home, right?

Food brought in from outside sources should be welcomed and accepted – if the resident chooses. However, the resident, family and guests need to be educated on foods appropriate for the resident in accordance with his or her agreed upon diet prescription.

F813- Food Safety Requirements – The one thing we do know, nursing homes in USA are required to have a policy regarding use and storage of food brought to residents by family and other visitors to ensure safe and sanitary storage, handling, and consumption. When foods are brought in, everyone must be accountable to make sure proper food handling practices are followed. This requires ongoing education to all staff as well as residents, visitors and family members. Foods brought in from outside sources must be stored in a way that is either separate of – or easily distinguishable from – facility food. The required Food from Outside Sources policy must ensure that staff assists the resident in accessing and consuming the food, if the resident is not able to do so on his or her own. Please download our PDF which summarizes the CMS guidelines (including F813; CH 483.60 (i)(3) Food Safety Requirements, probes for surveyors, and the list of potential tags that would need additional investigation if the surveyors have identified concerns related to this requirement). This should be very useful as you develop your community policy for foods brought in from outside sources.

All these things plus more, should be taken into consideration when a community decides how they are going to handle these issues. As we continue to balance choice and quality of care, we will find many opportunities for interpretation and process development on this “hot topic”. BSN Solutions has the expertise and experience to lend a guiding hand along the way.

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