Keep Food Safe from Delivery to Service
Although the Food Safety Modernization Act aims to prevent unsafe foods from being distributed in the first place, foodservice operations still need to keep food safe for consumption during the entirety of the handling, storing, cooking, and serving processes. Below, we've compiled a list of tips that will help foodservice employees preserve food safety.
- Wash your hands.
Having properly washed hands can prevent the transmission of disease-causing microorganisms. Employees should thoroughly wash hands in a dedicated hand-washing sink, using soap and warm running water. Proper technique includes scrubbing the backs of hands, between fingers, and under fingernails, as well as lathering up to the elbows, for at least 15 seconds. Hands should be washed immediately before beginning food preparation or putting gloves on, during food preparation when changing tasks, and after any contamination may have occurred from sneezing or coughing, using the restroom, and handling raw food or dirty equipment and utensils.
- Handle food safely.
Employees should wear clean uniforms and hair restraints at all times, and avoid wearing artificial nails, jewelry, and other items that could fall off while working with food. Since bare-hand contact can contaminate the food and make it unsafe to eat, employees should wear clean gloves or use utensils when handling food.
- Prevent cross contamination.
Raw and ready-to-eat food should always be kept separate, especially while it's being prepared. Many commercial kitchen products, like color-coded knives, are manufactured to help avoid cross contamination. Implementing a standard operating procedure checklist that adheres to HACCP standards can help ensure the overall sanitation of your products, equipment, and kitchen, which further protects food from cross contamination.
- Ensure food quality.
Food deliveries should be inspected thoroughly as soon as they arrive, when it is put into and taken out of storage, while it is being prepared, and while it is being held. If food is damaged or spoiled in any way, get rid of it. Test the temperature of food as soon as it arrives at your door. If it is above the safety threshold of 40 degrees F, reject the delivery.
- Maintain refrigeration and freezing equipment.
The ideal refrigeration temperature is at or below 40 degrees F, while freezers should be kept at or below 0 degrees F. Keep a close eye on your equipment's thermometers, and consider installing an alarm system that will alert you if temperatures begin to rise above safe levels.
Equipment that isn't working properly might not be able to maintain these temperatures, which could contaminate your food and put customers at risk. Keep equipment condenser coils clean of dust and debris, and ensure that all door gaskets are clean and in good condition so the door will maintain an airtight seal.
- Keep food out of the danger zone.
The range of danger zone temperatures, which is where bacteria grow most rapidly, is between 41 and 139 degrees F. Hot food should be kept hot, at or above 140 degrees F, and cold foods should be kept cold, at or below 40 degrees F. Do not let food stay in the middle.
- Hold and store food in the proper equipment.
Since food should be reheated to 165 degrees F and held at 140 degrees F to prevent contamination, you'll need to invest in food warming and holding equipment. It's also important to adhere to proper cooling techniques because foodborne illness is most often caused by improper cooling. Food should not be left out at room temperature and should be placed in a shallow container and refrigerated at 40 degrees F or below.
- Observe the safe minimum internal temperatures for food.
To ensure that all bacteria is eliminated, food should always be cooked to or above its minimum internal temperature. Ensure that food reaches the appropriate internal temperatures by using food thermometers, thoroughly cleaning them after each use. The minimum internal temperature for poultry is 165 degrees F, while beef should be cooked to 160 degrees F and pork and ham should be cooked to 145 degrees F.
Proper Hand Washing: A Vital Food Safety Step, Food Safety Magazine. Accessed October 2015.
Refrigeration and Food Safety, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. Accessed October 2015.
Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures, FoodSafety.Gov. Accessed October 2015.
Danger Zone, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. Accessed October 2015.