Running a food establishment is definitely not easy and there are numerous factors involved in pretty much every decision – from the choice of venue, menu, and stuff to the suppliers and products you use. Today we will be focusing on the food safety protocols and measures you need to take to prevent foodborne-illness outbreak. Even the slightest negligence in carrying good food safety practices could result in sick customers and stuff, loss of reputation, negative media exposure, lawsuit disputes, and legal fees, loss of morale in the stuff, people missing work, even in the closure of the operation. Here you know about Is the Food You Offer Safe?
In order to avoid all that you need to be familiar with foodborne illnesses and what causes them, so you can properly train your staff how to avoid contaminating the food they handle. There are three main sources of contamination:
- Biological – Pathogens include certain viruses, parasites, fungi, and bacteria. Also part of this group are some plants, mushrooms, and seafood that have harmful toxins.
- Chemical – Chemicals could contaminate food, if not used properly. Some of them are cleaners, sanitizers, and polishes.
- Physical – Physical objects like glass, dirt, even hair and jewelry could pose a great danger for the consumers.
To assure the food you prepare and serve is safe, you need to train the food handlers to be mindful of several things:
- Food needs to be purchased from suppliers that strictly follow all protocols regarding storing and transporting food, contamination and proper temperature.
- The cooking area and equipment needs to be cleaned and maintained properly and regularly.
- Stuff needs to be careful about cross-contaminating the food. This can happen when adding contaminated ingredients to food that receives no further cooking, by dipping the ready-to-eat food in fluids that are contaminated, or by the food handler who touches contaminated, then ready-to-serve food.
- Temperature-time abuse another danger to food safety. All food needs to be cooked at high enough temperature to kill the pathogens but also reheated properly. Cooling the food properly is also a big factor, the proper temperature of storage of ready-to-eat food also needs to be regularly checked and maintained at the prescribed levels.
- Staff’s personal hygiene and cleaning practices need to be strict and uncompromising at all times to ensure safety of everyone – both customers and coworkers. You need to emphasize on the importance of proper washing hands after using the restroom, absolutely no coughing or sneezing on the food and never allow sick people to be working with or around the food. As for the cleaning, you need to train your workers to be mindful if the sanitizing solutions are to the required level to properly sanitize the surfaces; all equipment and utensils should be washed, rinsed and sanitized between uses; the food-contact surfaces should be properly washed, rinsed, sanitized between uses(and not just wiped clean); all cleaning rugs need to be kept in sanitizer solution.
Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) Food
These are the groups of food that require special attention and control of time and temperature as pathogens grow well in the food.
- Milk and dairy products;
- Fish and seafood;
- Baked potatoes;
- Heat-treated plant-based food, such as cooked rice, beans, vegetables;
- Tofu and other soy proteins;
- Sliced fruits, cut tomatoes or chopped green leaves;
Ready-to-eat food is also at high risk, as it will receive no further cooking, so it requires strict attention. That includes not only meals that have already been cooked, but also washed fruit and vegetables, baking items and sugar, pre-cut salads, deli meat, spices and seasonings.
Population at high risk
There are certain groups of consumers that pose higher risk of getting foodborne sick than others. These include the growing elderly population, preschool-age children, pregnant women and people with compromised immunity systems (people with cancer or on chemotherapy, people with AIDS/HIV, people on certain medications, transplant patients).
Keeping food safe
After we have established the most common ways food becomes unsafe, it is time to set up standard operating procedures to prevent any foodborne illnesses. They need to focus on:
- Control of time and temperature;
- Prevention of cross-contamination;
- Practicing good personal hygiene;
- Getting ingredients from trusted, reputable suppliers;
- Cleaning and sanitizing.
Establishing proper food safety practices takes time and constant effort. You need to make sure the staff is trained and monitor if all safety procedures are strictly in place. Regular reminders for what is expected of them should be seen all over the workplace, at all proper locations. (Like a sign to wash their hands after using the restroom.) Every new employee should be trained upon hiring before joining the workflow, but also on a continuous basis.