Friday, November 1, 2013
Top Five Food Handler Tips to a Safer Restaurant
A car pulls into your restaurant parking lot and a person wearing a health inspector badge and an all too familiar clipboard steps out. Your heart beats a little faster as you realize that the person is not here for a late afternoon snack, but he/she is here for your quarterly health inspection. . .and you are the designated food manager in charge.Your mind begins to race... Are you prepared? Is your kitchen clean? Is your food handler certification current?Although you can never know exactly when your local food inspector is going to arrive at your restaurant doorstep, here are a few simple food safety tips you can apply to maintain a safe restaurant.1) Apply Proper Time and Temperature Standards and ControlsRemove all foods sitting out at room temperature. All foods should be refrigerated, frozen, or hot held. According to the FDA Food Code, the temperature danger zone is 41°F -135°F degrees. Foods can be left in the danger zone for a maximum of four hours. After four hours, the food must be discarded.One of the most common violations that food establishments incur is violations of time or temperature. Different meats need to be cooked to different internal temperatures.Pork for example, should be cooked to an internal holding temperature of 145°F for 15 seconds. The holding temperature is the minimum required temperature for each food type. Internal temperature can be measured by inserting the probe of the thermometer into the center or thickest part of the meat. Pork is susceptible to parasites like trichinella which can latch to the throat or intestinal walls.Chicken should be cooked to an internal holding temperature of 165°F for 15 seconds to safely prevent salmonella contamination, a common cause of food borne infection.Ground beef should be cooked to an internal holding temperature of 155°F for 15 seconds to prevent E.Coli contamination. Be careful when mixing different meats together. If you combine pork and ground beef, the internal temperature should be 155°F rather than 145°F because of the minimum internal temperature of ground beef. Having a set schedule for taking temperatures will ensure your food is cooked to the required levels.2) Wash Hands Thoroughly and RegularlyFood handlers are another major potential source of possible contamination. The large majority of viral outbreaks such as Hepatitis A could have been prevented if employees washed their hands regularly and thoroughly for a minimum of 15 to 20 seconds.Nails should be clean and free of dirt. Health inspectors still conduct a "hand check" where they look at the hands, fingernails, and fingertips for signs of dirt and other contaminants. A speck of dirt in a fingernail represents a million bacteria and. . .a single bacterium can double in twenty minutes under optimal temperatures; after 10-12 hours that a single bacterium can become a billion bacteria.Clean and stock your restroom on a daily basis. Water should be hot, paper towels and soap (liquid or foam) readily available. If there is no soap or paper towels, an employee might be tempted to not wash their hands.Consumers will also equate the cleanliness of your restaurant by the cleanliness of your restroom. Some restaurants only have one restroom that is shared by both the food handler and customer.Always follow the three D's: free of dirt, free of debris, and a dry floor. Dirty bathrooms can also be a breeding ground for contagious bacteria such as E.Coli and Shigella. Unclean bathrooms will even attract pests such as rats, mice, and roaches. Never store food in a restroom area.3) Monitor Employee HealthExcuse your employee if they suffering from diarrhea, jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes), or vomiting. They could be suffering from a highly infectious illness and should be sent home immediately.Four main types of infectious illnesses are Hepatitis A, E.Coli, Shigella, and Salmonella (or HESS). Employees exhibiting any of these types of illnesses should be sent home immediately and kept out of food prep and restroom areas. Notify your local health department immediately. Not only can they contaminate your food supply, they can also infect other employees. If a sick employee is in charge of receiving, they can potentially infect the entire supply.4) Purchase Food and Food Ingredients From Approved and Reputable VendorsAlways inspect your incoming shipments of food products. Pests can enter your restaurant in the boxes and containers your foods are shipped in. Check carefully for signs of pest activity such as fecal matter and shredded material. Torn materials are a possible sign of mice chewing the cardboard to build nests for their offspring.Some companies even use UV lights to check packaging for signs of urine stains. This control is because many foods look safe to eat until a person gets sick from consumption. The only way to be safe is to buy from a company that complies with federal, state, and local regulations. Never bring or make food from home or buy from a person selling food privately.Shipments should be received during slow times or before your restaurant opens to allow for proper inspection time and ensure quick and efficient transfer of foods to the refrigerator and freezer.5) Implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) ProgramIPM is a system of pest control that incorporates principles of food sanitation (such as access prevention), non-toxic methods of extermination (such as glue boards and spring-traps), and poisonous methods (such as chemical sprays.) Hire a reputable pest control operator for IPM.Prevent access of pests such as cockroaches, mice, and rats to your food supply. According to the current food code, foods such as bags of rice and canned goods should be stored on shelving at least six inches from the ground. Practice proper sanitation by removing trash when needed. A dirty trash can or dumpster can be a breeding ground for different types of insects as well as attracting animals such as rodents, raccoons, and opossum. Seal all cracks in walls and repair any torn screens or vents. Cockroaches can slip through the tiniest of cracks. Once inside, possible infestation is very likely.Many restaurants also install air curtains that blow air each time the entrance is opened, preventing flying insects such as flies and mosquitoes from entering. An effective IPM program will even cover areas not directly connected to food preparation such as the dining room and restrooms.After following these tips your food business will be on its way to a safer, cleaner, and healthier environment. Food safety training and food handler certification is essential for food businesses who desire to excel in their industry.