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National Food Safety Month Tip: Understanding & Following Food Safety Procedures

Problems pop up when staff do not fully understand or follow food safety procedures. Implementing a system of checks and balances ensures staff adhere to proper protocol.

“There are critical points during the flow of food, which determines how food moves through an operation,” says Clay Hosh, instructional design manager for the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe food safety and training certification program. “This is where there are opportunities to put check points in place to make sure products are [at the proper temperatures] throughout the process; active managerial control is key to making sure employees are doing what’s necessary at all critical points.”

Food safety issues typically occur due to lack of knowledge and experience. “Those who are working every day already know the procedures; when mistakes happen, it’s typically because someone is new to the job,” says Brian Kellerman, co-owner of Columbus, Ohio-based Kellerman Consulting. “When people don’t have a comprehensive training program and are just observing others casually and passively, it’s not always clear on what they should be doing. It’s also difficult to distinguish whether an employee understands what to do.”

Written procedures can help address this, including detailed forms and records to track training and whether employees retain necessary information. “Food safety issues come up due to lack of management or proper involvement in the business,” says Kellerman. “Serious issues occur when management is not involved enough in day-to-day operations.”

Active leadership means having a manager on the line or production floor watching and writing things down as they happen. Without someone watching, it’s only a matter of time until something major goes awry. “Even the best training programs aren’t a substitution for people in charge showing up and being active with their workers,” says Kellerman.

He recommends having a process in place, with procedures written and reviewed at least annually. Keep those procedures current in addition to maintaining a written record of each task to show how employees are following the plan. Provide employees with instructions and forms that detail the specific duties and why they are necessary so they fully understand the implications of not completing these properly.