September is National Food Safety Education month. With cold and flu season approaching, the beginning of a new school year and general changes around the kitchen, it’s a perfect time for restaurants, bars, cafeterias and other food service establishments to refresh safety skills and brush up on the local health code requirements.
Clean the Right Way
This may seem like a no-brainer, but cleaning is one of the most important things to do to prevent the spread of germs and illness-causing bacteria. Cleaning involves cleaning your hands, your utensils and food surfaces, and also your fruits and vegetables.
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with warm, soapy water. Wash after touching any part of your body, after sneezing or coughing, before and after handing food, and after handling money.
- Wash food preparation surfaces and utensils right away after using. The best way to fully sanitize is to use a diluted bleach solution, which kills 99% of bacteria on contact.
- Wash all produce, including fruits and veggies (but not meats, poultry, or eggs). Use a clean scrub brush and wash with clean running water, even if you plan to slice or peel the produce. Pat dry and enjoy!
Prevent Cross Contamination
Prevent contamination by potential allergens, bacteria and other harmful substances by keeping foods properly separated during every stage of storage, preparation and service. Be sure that raw foods are stored separately from cooked foods. If possible, use separate cutting boards to prepare different types of foods.
Cook Foods to Safe Temperatures
When you cook foods, the only way to ensure that any residual bacteria in the food is eradicated is by heating the food to 140°F or higher. This effectively raises the temperature out of the food “Danger Zone” (between 40°F and 140°F). Once cooked, keep the food hot using a chafing dish, food warmer, or strip heaters & heat lamps. Foods become more susceptible to bacterial growth once the temperatures dip back down into the Danger Zone.
Chill Perishable Foods
Chilling perishables in a properly functioning refrigerator, freezer, or blast chiller / shock freezer ensures that food is, once again, kept out of the Danger Zone. Be sure frozen food is stored at or below 0°F, and refrigerated foods are kept below 40°F. Never thaw frozen foods or marinate them on the counter. When serving food, be sure to refrigerate any leftovers within two hours. When in doubt, throw out any questionable refrigerated foods.
Communicate with Your Employees
Your staff members are your allies when it comes to safety and sanitation, and their compliance and understanding is crucial to your restaurant or food service operation’s success. Communicate the importance of food safety and sanitation with your team, including the reasons why it is important. Once your staff understands how doing things the wrong way can actually prove harmful to your customers, your business and your reputation, making safety a team effort is less of a struggle.
Whether you run a restaurant, a school cafeteria or your own catering business, educate yourself and follow proper food safety procedures this month and all throughout the year.