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Training Your Staff in Food Safety

No one likes eating at a dirty, messy restaurant. Health and food safety of your operation should always be regarded as the number one priority. The reputation of your establishment depends on it, as restaurants cannot afford bad exposure that goes along with an upsurge of a foodborne illness. A bad review pointing out dirty bathrooms, a dirty host station, or disordered staff can cause death to a business. It can take several years for reputation to recover from an upsurge ticketed to a restaurant’s premises.

No restaurant is immune from the horrors of an outbreak of food borne illness. In 2015, Chipotle made headlines for not only an E.coli outbreak, but a salmonella outbreak and an outbreak of norovirus. Each of these outbreaks occurred in different parts of the country. This string of foodborne illnesses caused Chipotle to introduce stricter food handling and storage procedures. At Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck in 2009 outbreak of norovirus caused by tainted oysters, despite its ranking as a Michelin 3 star restaurant, inspectors found that staff did not wash their hands properly among other hygiene infractions. This is remind that anyhow your food operation, food safety and safe handling and cleaning practices are an indisputable priority in every food service establishment.

Here are a few pointers on how to train your staff on proper safety techniques and some important information on how to protect your restaurant reputation, your customers, and your employees from dangerous safety and health situations.

Training Your Employees

Implementing a training program for all employees level is crucial. efficient and basic training, becomes an integrated part of day-to-day operations. Documentation, staff compliance and supervision by management are key elements to ensure the success of the training.

Proper food hygiene practices can help prevent a number of issues for restaurants. food safety practices can:

  • Significantly reduce the risk of food poisoning

  • Protect your reputation

  • Reduce legal liability in the case of a foodborne illness

Recommendation for effective Staff Food Safety Training

Here are a few ways to implement food safety training in your kitchen.

  • Use health and food safety-training program (HACCP Program) and ensure every staff member takes the time to complete and assist. Ensure you restaurant and your management has an up-to-date food handling record.

  • Create a health topic calendar to deliver one health and safety daily at a staff briefing: storage temperatures, ice machines cleaning, proper serving temperatures, cutting board chart. maximum 10 minutes so the the information stick, implement the strategy, set goals for next week and reward good practice.

  • Post posters and visuals at crucial areas of the restaurant such as hand-washing signs near sinks and in restroom, vegetables sanitation steps at vegetable prep area. Post reminders and check lists at stations throughout BOH & FOH. It helps reminding your team and make them feel responsible.

Front and Back of House Focal Points for Good Food Safety Practices

Front and Back-of-House staff have the same responsibilities to maintain high standards of food safety.

You and your staff can manage your food handling practices by breaking them down into these four basic categories:

  • Cross-Contamination

  • Cleaning

  • Chilling

  • Cooking

What Is Cross-Contamination?

Cross-contamination is when bacteria is spread between food, surfaces or equipment and is one of the the most common causes of food poisoning or allergic reactions in restaurants. It is most likely to happen when raw food touches or drips onto other surfaces or prepared foods.

There are several ways you and your employees can avoid cross-contamination:

  • Clean and disinfect work surfaces, chopping boards and equipment thoroughly before preparing food and after they have been used to prepare raw food.

  • Use different chopping boards and knives for raw meat/poultry, vegetables, allergen-free items, and ready-to-eat food.

  • Wash your hands before preparing food and after touching raw food or common allergy items like peanuts or gluten.

  • Separate cleaning materials, including cloths, sponges and mops, should be used in areas where ready-to-eat foods are stored, handled and prepared.

Proper Cleaning Techniques

Effective cleaning gets rid of bacteria on hands, equipment, and surfaces and helps to stop harmful bacteria from spreading to food. Aside from nightly clean ups, it is essential that employees clean as they go. Not only does this help prevent unsafe situations, but it also helps save labor at the end of the shift.

Cleaning agents are divided into five categories:

  • Detergents: Use detergents to routinely wash tableware, surfaces, and equipment. Detergents can penetrate soil quickly and soften it.

  • Degreaser: Use occasionally when grease is burned on surfaces.

  • Acid cleaners: Use when needed on mineral deposits and other soils which detergents cannot remove. These cleaners are used to remove scale in any equipment where water is a key component such as dishwashing machines and steam tables.

  • Abrasive cleaners: These remove heavy accumulations of soil that are difficult to remove with detergents. Some abrasive cleaners also disinfect.

There are six main steps in cleaning anything in a kitchen are as follows :

  1. Pre-rinse: This step is primarily used in dish areas for cleaning plates, utensils, and cookware, but can also apply to very dirty surfaces. Any large debris and water soluble particles should be rinsed off before cleaning.

  2. Cleaning / Washing: After rinsing dishes or surfaces, they should be thoroughly scrubbed with hot water and an appropriate detergent. It is important to remove all lose particles, and ensure that every part of what you are cleaning has been washed.

  3. Rinse: All surfaces that have come in contact with the detergent should be thoroughly rinsed with water to remove all soap and debris. After rinsing, dishes, equipment, and surfaces should appear clean.

  4. Sanitize: After a final rinse, the items being cleaned need to be sanitized before they are safe to use. Dishes, utensils, and other items that run through a dish machine can be sanitized by hot water inside the machine. Equipment and surfaces all must be sanitized with a disinfecting solution and allowed to air dry.

  5. Final rinsing: this step is to make sure there is no chemicals left after the surface or utensil has been sanitized to not transfer to food.

  6. Drying: this step is very important to not leave any humidity ambient for the bacteria to prosper.

The Importance of Chilling

Chilling food properly helps to stop harmful bacteria from growing. Some food needs to be kept chilled to keep it safe. Perishable food items, such as milk or refrigerated meats, should be stored under 4 degrees Celsius and labeled with the date that they were put into cold storage. Here are the most important points your operation should be implementing:

  • Put all perishable orders / deliveries into the cooler or freezer as soon as they arrive, and double check to make sure they have not been improperly transported or damaged. Be sure to follow standard FIFO (first in, first out) protocol.

  • Keep a thermometer in all refrigerated storage space, and make sure that temperatures stay in their respective safe zones.

  • To properly chill prepared foods that have been fully cooked, cool them to 70 degrees Fahrenheit within two hours. Once cooled to 70 degrees, within four hours continue to cool in a refrigerator until the food’s temperature falls below 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Though regional / local ordinances may vary, these are standard practices to reduce food exposure in what is known throughout the industry as “the Danger Zone” for food.

Safe Cooking Practices

Thorough cooking kills harmful bacteria in food, so it is extremely important to make sure that food is cooked to proper temperature. When cooking or reheating food, always check that it is fully cooked all the way through, not just on the surface.

Here are a list of the government's safe minimum temperatures:

  • Beef, Lamb, & Veal: The suggested serving temperature of red meat is 63 degrees Celsius It should be noted that this yields a medium-done product, and is standard for whole pieces of meat.

  • Poultry: All poultry, regardless of how it is prepared, should be cooked to 75 degrees Celsius.

  • Seafood: The serving temperatures of seafood can vary. Typically, fin fish is cooked to an internal temperature of 63 degrees Celsius, and shellfish is cooked until the shells open or until the flesh is completely shiny white.

  • Eggs: Eggs should be cooked until both the yolk and whites are firm, and foods cooked with eggs should be cooked to 73 degrees Celsius.

  • Leftovers: All leftovers should be reheated to 75 degrees Celsius.

The Conclusion

Implementing these tips will put your restaurant on the right track to food safety. Making it the responsibility of every team member will ensure you have a clean, healthy, and reputable restaurant.

PS - We also recommend get familiar with the local health and safety standards so you are not surprised when the health inspector stops by to check for proper food storage , refrigerator temperatures, and cleanliness.

If you need help training your staff and implementing the proper step of food safety management, please get in in touch with me to put an action plan so we take your operation to a secure level and control that will reflect on your operation.

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