Investors Wary of Restaurant Chain Following Salmonella Outbreak, one national headline reads. Your local news crew notes the drastic decrease in sales at another restaurant following negative reviews and media coverage of another food safety scandal.
Whether you own a restaurant, work in food service, or are simply preparing meals at home, cross contamination can happen at many stages of the food preparation process. It is especially important in a restaurant to have concrete food safety rules and procedures for the proper handling of and disposing of food items, not only for regulation purposes but also for the health of your patrons and employees.
Food safety matters.
Make these procedures part of your training for all new employees, and provide easy access to them for employees to check their methods whenever there is doubt. A supervisor may not always be readily available, so it is important that everyone involved in food service knows the basics of food safety, even for steps they may not engage in most of the time.
Read on for five important food service safety issues that can have serious consequences for your business and the steps you can take to prevent them.
1.) Purchasing and Stocking Expired or Damaged Products
Whether you buy food straight from the grocery store or have it delivered via truck or mail carrier, always check the outside of containers for tears and leaks before using any of the product. Open packages will cause bacteria to grow in perishable items and will welcome bugs and small rodents into your canned and dry goods.
For in-store shopping, make sure you purchase all refrigerated and frozen items last. Never buy food past the sell-by, use-by, or other expiration dates. If the expiration date cannot be determined, don’t buy it! Toss it! Don’t take a chance on incurring illness (or a lawsuit!) by preparing food that may be spoiled before it even goes into the kitchen.
Businesses should promptly check the products coming into their store or warehouse to ensure that everything they ordered is up to date and in good condition upon arrival. Doing this extra step in the beginning will help ensure that all of your stocked items have been thoroughly checked and that proper measures will be taken within an appropriate time frame if a product needs to be returned, replaced, or refunded.
Spend more time now and less money later.
Find a wholesaler you trust to consistently deliver reliable products and that you can have a good working relationship with regarding questions about products or issues with damages and expired goods. Round Eye Supply is committed to providing you with quality products and excellent customer service. Have a question? Send an email, call, or chat with us online today!
2.) Improper Storage
When it comes to food, the temperature at which a particular item is stored is just as important as the container it is stored in. Unless you want your patrons to have fevers of 105 °F, make sure your refrigerator is set to 40 °F and your freezer is set to 0 °F. Refrigerate perishable items within 1-2 hours of taking them out. Meats, fish, and poultry all have different time frames within which they are safe to cook and eat or freeze for cooking at a later date. Be sure you know which time frame applies to your specific meat. Fresh vegetables and fruits should also be refrigerated in a sanitary space, separate from meats, and consumed within specific time constraints.
Wrap meats securely to ensure freshness and to prevent cross-contamination with other foods. Always be sure to store raw meats separately and to place them where juices will not leak onto other foods. As a general rule, canned foods are safe as long as the cans are not dented, rusted, or swollen, and they are not exposed to extremely cold (32 °F) or extremely hot (90 °F) temperatures.
3.) Unsanitary Preparation Methods
Remember that rule about singing your ABC’s while you wash your hands? Well, the 20 second rule still applies to proper hand washing before and after handling food.
Always wash with warm, soapy water, and make sure all cutting boards, utensils, and countertops have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before prepping food. Hot, soapy water should be used for all dishes and surfaces that have touched raw meat, poultry, and fish. Never reuse a dish or a utensil for a different food item without washing it first!
Exterminate germs and bacteria from all food preparation and storage surfaces. There are many cleaning solutions out there. Be aware that some are safe only for cleaning surfaces, not hands! Determine the cleaning solution that best fits your needs: oven and grill cleaners, disinfectants and germicidal cleaners , degreasers, glass cleaners, general purpose cleaners , or floor care cleaners.
One tried and true cleaning solution: 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach dissolved in 1 gallon of water.
4.) Improper Thawing and Cooking
Always cook frozen food immediately after thawing. A refrigerator allows for slower, safer thawing than cold water or a microwave. Make sure if you do thaw using cold water that the container or plastic bag stays sealed against water and contaminants from the air and surrounding environment.
Pre-cooked leftovers should be safe to eat for 3 to 4 days once thawed and reheated to 165 °F. Past that time frame, they should be refrozen or discarded. Cover leftovers when reheating to ensure moisture retention and thorough heat distribution.
Cook to the proper internal temperatures for each food item. Temperatures should be recorded with a clean, calibrated thermometer and documented for your records.
5.) Negligent Serving Practices and Personal Hygiene
Keep hot foods hot with slow cookers or warming trays and cold foods cold by setting them on ice. Never leave perishable food out for more than 2 hours at room temperature.
Be sure all staff members follow proper hygiene practices. Clean and suitable clothing, including hair restraints and closed-toe shoes, should be worn by food service staff at all times when preparing and serving meals. To prevent contamination, eating, chewing gum, smoking, and using tobacco should be prohibited in areas of food preparation and storage. Employees should wash their hands immediately after coughing or sneezing and at other appropriate times.
Using gloves and aprons, either washable or disposable, also cuts down on the spread of germs and other particles to food being prepared and served, in addition to making your staff appear clean and professional. Round Eye Supply offers a variety of gloves and aprons in different materials, sizes, and thicknesses to fit your needs.
Initiate a plan of action to implement these steps or add on to the procedures you already have in place. Taking food safety seriously today will save you a lot of time, money, penalties, and negative publicity in the long run. Healthy policies produce a healthy, successful business!