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How to Avoid Cross-Contamination in Your Restaurant

How to Avoid Cross-Contamination in Your Restaurant

On Wednesday, October 21, 2015, two lawsuits were filed against the owners of a San Jose Mexican restaurant, Mariscos San Juan #3, where the food made nearly 100 people ill, and left 24 people with confirmed cases of Shigella, a contagious diarrhoeal disease. As of Friday, October 23, 2015, the number of outbreak-associated cases of Shigella had increased to 141, and the number of confirmed cases had risen to 49.

Investigators are still looking into how the outbreak actually started, but an inspection report dated October 25, 2015 showed partially cooked food, including shrimp broth and octopus that were not properly cooled to 41 degrees before they were refrigerated, which leads to major risks such as this. The inspection also called for the food preparation surface to be sanitized.

The lawsuit seeks an amount yet to be determined at a jury trial for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, and emotional distress.

This could never happen to your restaurant, though, right? Well, let’s not be overconfident, as you can never take too many precautionary measures when dealing with the physical health of your clientele. Here are a few simple ways to avoid any health risks inside your food service establishment:

1. Personal hygiene, health, and cleanliness of your employees. Be sure all of your employees, no matter what their position, have clean and manicured hands, containing no cuts, raw cuticles, or bitten nails. Beyond this, enforce glove use with all food handlers whenever necessary. Be sure everybody appears to be clean, and smells clean as well, including their uniforms and aprons. The cook staff in particular should not be wiping their dirty hands on their uniforms or aprons, as they harbor bacteria that can then spread to the food. Lastly, policies should be put into place and enforced, making sure food handlers do not come into work without reporting any illnesses or wounds.

2. Stress proper handwashing. This is especially important after using the restroom and after handling raw meat, seafood, and poultry. After your employees wash their hands properly and thoroughly, it is important for them to then use a paper towel or hand dryer, rather than a dish towel, their uniform, or their apron. 

3. Use separate equipment each type of food. Each type of food should be prepared and handled with different equipment. For example, use one set of cutting boards, utensils, and containers for raw poultry, another for raw meat, and another for produce. Perhaps choose different color equipment for each type of food, or just label each set: poultry, meat, produce.

4. Clean and sanitize all work surfaces. Along with employees’ hands and all of the kitchen equipment, each of the work stations should always be clean as well. Simply rinsing it is not enough to eliminate pathogens that can contaminate food. You must actually wash all of the work stations and work surfaces with hot soapy water and/or sanitizer.


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