Ecolab's vice president of food safety and public health, Ruth L. Petran, Ph.D., discusses how to apply best practices to create a food safety-oriented culture.
Restaurant owners and managers take steps to train and encourage employees to practice the best procedures to ensure their restaurants store, prepare and serve high-quality and safe food. Equally important is remaining vigilant and continually enhancing a culture of food safety.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the top contributing factors to foodborne illness include: poor personal hygiene, improper holding, unsafe source, inadequate cooking and contaminated equipment/environment.
Remain food-safety vigilant by embedding best practice standards into your culture.
Make Hand-Washing Convenient
Proper hand-washing is one of the best preventive measures when it comes to eliminating foodborne illness. Ensure hand-washing stays top-of-mind by incorporating it into the food prep flow. Install hand sinks within employees’ sight and continuously restock soap and paper towels. Train and reinforce with your staff the recommended hand-washing guideline (FDA Food Code §2-301.13) of washing hands for 20 seconds using soap and warm water.
Ensure Proper Cooler Temp
Set refrigerators and freezers to the proper temperature to keep food stored safely. Set refrigerators at 40 degrees F or below; freezers at 0 degrees F or below. Also, check that your refrigerator has a built-in thermometer. If not, place an appliance thermometer inside to provide an accurate reading.
Another important checkpoint to establish is regular monitoring of internal temperatures. Keep a chart near the refrigerator where employees can quickly record date, time and temperature at least once per shift.
Know Your Vendors and Suppliers
Sometimes a potential contamination originates upstream, which is why developing a collaborative relationship with vendors and suppliers is critical. Specifically ask what food safety procedures they have in place and verify that the practice remains up to code.
Cook Until Done
Among the factors responsible for foodborne illness instances, inadequate cooking ranks near the top of the list. Properly using a thermometer corrects the problem by ensuring food heats to a high enough internal temperature to kill illness-inducing contaminants. Follow these recommended cooking temperatures from the U.S. Food Code in (§3-401.11):
- Raw poultry: a minimum temperature of 165 degrees F
- Raw ground meats: at least 158
- Raw pork, fish, lamb, and whole pieces of beef: 145 degrees FClean, Clean, Clean …
Clean, Clean, Clean … Then Sanitize
The strongest defense for food safety is a good offense, which means instituting regular cleaning with proper products for the surface and food soil. High-touch surfaces, such as door handles, menus and chairs or booths, also need cleaning. Even floors and drains can harbor dangerous microorganisms and increase the risk of cross-contamination and foodborne illness.
Don’t underestimate the importance of maintaining ultra-high standards. Constant attention to the issue will ensure the food you serve is safe and keep guests coming back.