Food safety is not just a practice but a promise that you keep to your customers every single day. When you run a commercial kitchen, you have a responsibility to deliver your patrons with food that is not only great-tasting but also safe to eat. Not sure what is the best way to prevent poor food safety? Read on.
You'll be surprised at how one simple oversight can contaminate your kitchen and start a foodborne illness, but you’ll also be happy to know that it is easy enough to prevent that from ever happening. Knowing the do’s and don'ts of commercial food safety empowers you to obstruct the development and spread of diseases and maintain the cleanliness of your workspace in the face of the busy operation and heavy demands.
Stay Out Of The “Danger Zone”
We hate to break it to you, but the danger zone isn’t as cool as it sounds. And as we figure out the answer to the question of “What is the best way to prevent poor food safety?”, riding into the danger zone, unfortunately, isn’t it.
In foodservice, the “danger zone” refers to a specific range of temperature that creates a breeding ground for bacteria. The unsafe temperature range we’re talking about is 40 °F to 140 °F. The growth of bacteria is slowed significantly in colder temperatures; higher temperatures completely kill it.
To protect hot food, keep it stored 140 °F and above. For this, it is wise to invest in equipment such as steam tables, warmers, and slow cookers. Cold food, on the other hand, should be safe in a reach-in refrigerator, a walk in cooler, refrigerated table, or refrigerated display running below 40 °F.
How Long Can Food Sit Out?
Food can sit out at room temperature for no more than two hours. Make that one hour if the temperature is above 90 °F. After that, it will start to attract bacteria, making it unfit for consumption.
Cross-Contamination Is The Enemy
If the mention of cross-contamination doesn’t send chills down your spine, it’s time to reflect on what is the best way to prevent poor food safety and if you are doing it right.
Cross-contamination is when bacteria spreads from one food to another, such as when cooked food is cut on the same cutting board as raw meat or when an employee proceeds to touch one food after another food without washing hands thoroughly. Cross-contamination can happen pretty easily too. So how can this be prevented? There are a few ways:
Use Designated Tools and Utensils
An effective way to avoid cross-contamination is to use a different set of utensils and equipment for raw food and cooked food. Have them color-coded according to HACCP guidelines so you can immediately identify which is which. Make it part of your routine to vigorously wash and sanitize cutting boards, knives, and all other tools and surfaces used in food production with hot, soapy water after every use so the next food that will be prepared or assembled won’t be contaminated.
Don’t Underestimate Food Organization
Taking time to develop an efficient food organization system for you restaurant may seem like a chore, but trust us when we say that you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time and a lot of headaches in the future. Even better, storage has been made so much simpler with adjustable shelves and special compartments integrated into many commercial refrigerators and freezers you can get today.
If you stuff the refrigerator or freezer with more than it can handle, it will start to struggle cooling everything. That being said, purchase a unit with the right capacity for your specific needs. Maintain optimal airflow inside to achieve the proper temperature by placing food items neatly, with at least half an inch space in between.
Proper storage of your inventory helps prolong shelf life and ultimately prevent food waste and spoilage. If you order food supplies in bulk, you will need a large cold storage space such as a walk in refrigerator or freezer to fit and chill or freeze a large volume of items at the same time without taking a toll on the unit. For walk ins, provide a minimum of six inches of space between the lowest shelves and the floor.
Most food items enjoy a longer shelf life when placed inside the freezer operating at 0 °F although there are foods that don’t freeze well at all.
Separate Raw Foods From Cooked Foods
Raw meat, poultry, and seafood should be placed in containers or sealed in plastic bags to keep the freshness in and to prevent juices from dripping onto other food. These items are best stowed on the lowest shelves of the refrigerator. Cooked and cured meats can be safely stored in higher shelves. Fruits and vegetables are more delicate than most and more vulnerable to contamination, hence they should not be placed in front of the refrigerator or freezer’s fans.
When accepting deliveries, promptly separate raw food from the prepared food. Find a sanitary area where it can be unloaded and unpacked for thorough inspection. Keep an eye out for damage and mold and make sure to verify expiration dates. Products closest to their use-by deadline should be the first out, and therefore should be most accessible.
Promote Proper Hygiene
So what is the best way to prevent food safety as far as individual hygiene goes? It is important that employees know when to wash hands and how to wash hands. Educate your food handlers with the proper hand-washing technique from the get-go, and enforce its practice every single time.
As part of starting your restaurant, your food handlers probably already had to undergo a state-approved training for proper food safety. What’s left is to encourage them to live by what they learned beyond the training and the health inspection phase. It wouldn’t hurt to, at the very least, put up a sign to remind them to wash their hands after touching other food, cleaning, or performing other tasks. The same is true after eating, drinking, or smoking, and after coming into contact with another person or bodily fluids.
When it comes to thorough handwashing, you’re doing it right if you take at least 20 seconds and make use of ample amount of soap and water. Drying the hands is just as important. Only use clean, unused paper towels or an automatic hand dryer.
Make It Easier For Your Employees To Maintain Hygiene
As an operator, you are responsible for outfitting your facility with the complete equipment to support proper hygiene practices. Install sinks in a convenient location so employees can easily wash their hands whenever they need to. You are required to place a handwashing sink at the food prep area as well as inside or adjacent to the toilet.
Employees should only wash their hands on designated handwashing sinks. This means sinks strictly for warewashing, food prep, service, or mops are off-limits for this specific purpose.
For good measure, you may have to invest in a supply of disposable gloves to prevent bare-hand contact with cooked food that’s going to the customer table. You know the drill. The gloves should be changed when switching from one food to another. Aprons and hairnets will also be useful in keeping away outside contaminants.
While on the subject of employee hygiene, never ever let a sick employee work. If your workers are suffering from diarrhea, vomiting, or basically other diseases, it is best that they take the day off and recover completely before heading back to the kitchen. This way, you not only protect their welfare; the health of your customers is not put at any risk too.
Monitor Equipment Performance
When it comes to kitchen equipment, what is the best way to prevent poor food safety? For one, make sure that your food storage equipment is running smoothly and is able to maintain the ideal temperature for your food at all times. This is made easy with easy-to-read displays at the front of a freezer or a refrigerator that immediately tell you what is happening inside.
The refrigerator should be operating at or below 40 °F while the freezer should be no higher than 0 °F. A lot of these commercial refrigerators and freezers are even made smarter by alerting you of any temperature fluctuations so you can address the issue immediately.
Cleaning your equipment is also one way to prevent contamination and other food safety issues. From your commercial convection oven to your ice machine, they should all be regularly cleaned and maintained in order to preserve optimal performance and ultimately create a safer, cleaner environment for cooking or holding food. A lot of equipment available on the market at the moment has made it routine cleaning painless. From the stainless steel construction to the touchscreen interface that reduces cleaning to a push of a button, this task is easier than ever.
Wash Food Thoroughly
Now that you’ve got hygiene covered, what is the best way to prevent poor food safety when handling food? Fruits and vegetables must be washed under cold running water to quickly remove residue or chemicals from the peel or the outside of it. A colander will be extremely helpful for this task, but make sure that it is only strictly used for fruits and vegetables. There should be a different colander for other ingredients.
Don’t Forget About Ice
When we ask the question “what is the best way to prevent food safety?”, note that were are also talking about ice.
Ice is food and should always be treated as such. For this reason, operators must also follow strict food safety guidelines in order to ensure that the ice is safe for consumption. Here are some tips:
Never touch the ice with their bare hands. Use an ice scoop instead. This ice scoop should have a designated container or placement outside the ice bin where it can be sanitarily stored in between access.
Don’t use a customer’s glass or cup to scoop ice. Additionally, when ice goes unused after being placed inside a glass, don’t put it back to the ice bin. To maintain the quality of the ice, install a filter to keep the water supply free from bacteria.
Maintaining your commercial ice maker is another important step, and the great thing about that is manufacturers have made it easier for operators to keep the unit clean. A Manitowoc ice machine, for one, performs preventative maintenance and facilitates easy access and removability of refrigeration parts for thorough cleaning.