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Friend finds caterer's kitchen unappetizing

DEAR READERS: I'm stepping away from the "Ask Amy" column for a week. Please enjoy these hand-picked "best of" columns in my absence.

DEAR AMY: I have a dear friend who announced she was going to start her own catering business. She is a very talented cook and enlisted my help. I had not been to her home prior to this, and when I got there, I could not believe my eyes.

There was mud tracked all over the floor; the stove and counters were encrusted with various types of spills; the cabinets and walls had drips and smears all over them. She has cats, and I even saw one trying to eat out of a pot on the stove! But by far the most horrific thing I witnessed was this ratty sponge she had. Not only did she wash dishes with it, but she would halfheartedly clean the counters with it, and once she wiped up a spill off the floor with it. Then back in the sink it went. Whenever I gingerly addressed the cleanliness issue, I was met with a shrug. --So Incredibly Grossed Out (2004)

DEAR GROSSED: I found a very helpful website sponsored by the Partnership for Food Safety Education

(fightbac.org). You can download fact sheets about safe food handling in the home to share with her. I learned, for instance, that we should wash our hands with soap for a full 20 seconds before and after handling food. The site also has tips on safe food handling techniques and recommendations for how to clean, cook and store food.

Obviously, if she produces food for the public out of this unsafe environment, that is an extremely serious issue. Food-borne illnesses sicken thousands of people a year. You don't make it clear whether your friend has actually started her catering business, but if she has, even informally, I think you should contact health department officials to see what they recommend.

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