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Key Operator Issues-Part 1: Food Safety

Technomic Inc., a leading foodservice industry research firm, did a recent study on key issues impacting Foodservice Operators. We will cover the 4 areas that Operators expressed as their top concerns: Food Safety, Labor, Growth and Cost Control. We will begin with Food Safety.
Preventive safety measures can save you money, head off potential problems and give your customers confidence that your establishment meets all standard of excellence. There are many things you can do to make your establishment and the food you serve safer. A good place to start is by establishing procedures and plans and communicate them to every employee.
Proper Procedures to Ensure Food Safety
Receiving
Check each product for temperature, quality and freshness as it arrives. Use all your senses to check for freshness-look, smell, feel and even taste the product. Make sure the item meets your purchase specifications. Randomly examine the entire contents of a box rather than just the items on the top.
As part of your receiving practices, check that refrigerated items arrive at proper temperatures, usually 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below. If a product does not meet your standards of freshness, refuse to accept it.
Holding
The delivery and catering of food offers opportunities for temperature abuse. To ensure food is safe while being cold-held, food must stay cool and out of the temperature danger zone (41F to 140F). Use covers and wrappers to retain food temperatures. Place cold food in chilled gel-filled containers or in bowls of ice if mechanical equipment is not available or practical.
If food is being delivered or catered, don't be afraid to ask the delivery person to show you the temperature of the food upon arrival. Items should be in rigid, insulated containers capable of maintaining food temperatures at 41F or lower to transport food
Preparation
The first step in food preparation often is thawing the food that will be served. If the food is thawed improperly, foodborne microorganisms can grow and make it unsafe. Thaw food in the refrigerator at temperatures of 41F or lower.
Submerge any frozen product in cold running water (70F or lower). Make sure the thawed product doesn't drip water onto other products or food-contact surfaces.
Food may be thawed in a microwave oven, only if it will be cooked immediately afterward; microwave thawing can actually start cooking the product, so don't use this method unless the food will be cooked immediately after thawing.
Food may be thawed as part of any cooking procedure, as long as the product reaches its recommended minimum internal cooking temperature. (i.e., frozen hamburger patties can go straight from the freezer onto the grill without being thawed first.)
Cooling
If cooked food will not be served immediately, or if you have leftovers, it must be cooled as quickly as possible to prevent it from becoming unsafe.
Reduce the size of the food being cooled. Divide hot food into smaller quantities, or put food into shallow pans.
Use ice-water baths to bring food temperatures down quickly. After dividing food into smaller quantities, put the pans in a clean sink or large pot filled with ice and water.
Storage
Immediately unpack and store items. Repackage items in uniform, see-through plastic containers that seal tightly to extend the product's life.
Mark each item with the date it was received. You can use magic markers, grease pencils, different color stamps or a date stamp-whatever works best for your operation.
How are Operators Addressing Food Safety?
ServSafe certification, more training
Embracing proper procedures
Designing their operations for food safety
More coolers, freezers
Better placement of equipment
Appropriate product flow
More hand sinks
Cook chill