A foodservice operation not mastering basic food safety principles is like a baseball player who lacks the ability to hit, catch or throw the ball properly. Simply put, it represents a deficiency in the most basic fundamentals of our industry.
Thanks to the endless amount of food safety-related research, identifying the factors that contribute to foodborne illness is no longer the biggest obstacle an operator faces in creating a food-safe environment. Rather, today's biggest challenge is developing a clear understanding of what it takes to transfer that knowledge successfully to the employees so they can apply it.
The simplest way to overcome this obstacle is to ensure all managers have food protection manager certification from an ANSI-CFP-accredited provider. In fact, an ongoing study prepared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's National Retail Food Team found that those organizations that make a certified food protection manager part of their team excel at making sure their operations are in compliance with food safety norms.
For example, in a quick-service restaurant, the study showed that the presence of a certified food protection manager minimized the risk of improper holding by 21 percent and the use of contaminated equipment by 17 percent.
Start creating a food-safe environment by conducting a self-assessment of your operation to gauge in which areas you are doing well and where your food safety gaps are. Once you know what you need to address, you can start looking at the appropriate tactics such as developing training programs or policies.
Operators should monitor hygiene closely. This includes monitoring employee health and not allowing them to come to work when they are ill with vomiting, diarrhea or jaundice. Monitoring hygiene also includes making sure employees wear proper work attire, wash their hands thoroughly while on the job and use gloves when appropriate.
In fact, for full-service restaurants, hygiene is one area where having a certified food protection manager on staff showed a statistical significance with “in compliance” scores. The FDA study showed that when an operation has a certified food protection manager on staff, the facility is 20 percent more likely to be in compliance with those risk factors related to personal hygiene among workers.
Operators should also establish a relationship with their local health inspector. As a general rule, you don't want your first meeting to be when an incident occurs. And having a relationship in good times will help you overcome any challenges that may arise in an easier, more efficient manner.
The same can be said of cultivating a relationship with the community in which the operator resides. We are, after all, in the hospitality business and it never hurts to bank some good will from which you can draw.
Ways to stay current include subscribing to industry trade magazines and listserves, and regularly visiting government web sites such as the FDA and USDA. Keep in touch with other restaurants and foodservice establishments to see what food safety practices work. It is important to view this as a continuous improvement process as advancements in everything from technology to regulations come online at a pretty consistent clip.
Food safety remains a daily challenge everyone in the industry must face. But it's nice to know that we have the ability to master the fundamentals.
“Parting Shot" is a monthly opinion column written on a rotating basis by guest authors. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of FE&S.