Yearly Archive for 2009

Which Dangerous Germs Could Be Breeding in Your Food Preparation Area? 

We may have developed vaccines to counter small pox and other such diseases. We may have developed great techniques to store food in a germless environment in large laboratories. However, when it comes to food preparation in our day to day lives, are we really safe?

Just the other day David went to his favourite grill for a late lunch. While sitting at the bar he could see directly into the kitchen area, what he witnessed sickened him. The main chef had long shoulder length hair that was waving it over the grill, not only was there no hairnet he did not even have his hair pulled back. To the right of the cook was a girl preparing salads who obviously had a cold because her nose was running so she quickly wiped it on the back of her hand and went right back to chopping tomatoes.

Needless to say, David never went to that place again!

Unfortunately, this situation is repeated all too often in restaurants throughout the country. What most people are oblivious to is the millions of germs that live in these places. Simple cleaning practices kill most germs however grimy surfaces, unwashed hands and fingers are prime breeding areas. Not all germs are harmful but unfortunately those that are dangerous far outnumber those that are safe.

Studies have revealed that a toilet seat has fewer germs than most kitchens. If this tells us nothing else, it should alert us to the fact that proper cleanliness should be a top priority for restaurants and other food service areas.

Here are some common varieties of germs which may inhabit the kitchen and food preparation areas of commercial restaurants:

Staphylococcus aureus: More commonly known as Staph, it is present in the nose and on the skin. On the skin it causes relatively small lesions but when it’s found in food it can lead to serious illness!

Salmonella: This bacterium loves non-vegetarians! Commonly found in meat and chicken products, Salmonella can cause food poisoning.

Clostridium Botulinium: Causes a disease called Botulism which can be fatal if left unattended. This bacterium inhabits canned foods, meats and vegetables.

This is by no means a complete list of the common bacteria found in food that can cause serious complications. These are simply a sample; there are many more things like fungi, protozoa and viruses that find their way into kitchens and restaurants across the nation.

Is there any way to avoid these germs? How can you make your kitchen a disease free zone?

Here is a list of actions you can take to keep your kitchen germ free:

- Replace your dishrags with paper towels. Use cleaning tools that are the disposable type and if you must use a cloth rag for cleaning make sure to wash it in hot water and soap.

- Buy a supply of rubber gloves for use while handling food, especially meat.

- Use cutting boards and replace them frequently. Cutting boards are a favourite play grounds for germs. Replace the boards once you see too many scratches on them and use different cutting boards for different foods. For example use one cutting board for meat and another for vegetables.

These are some simple yet powerful ways to rid your kitchen of harmful germs and keep your customers healthy.

If you are ready to get down to the nitty gritty there are professionals out there to assist you. They will watch the food safety procedures in place in your kitchen and give you a grade based on national standard guidelines of hygiene. From handling food to cleanliness of food and preparation areas, they handle them all and even assist in training your staff.

Do You Know How to Choose a Restaurant that is Safe, Healthy and Hygienic?

It’s not surprising that most people enjoy eating out. After all, it is convenient and usually enjoyable. Unfortunately, a food outlet that lacks hygiene and cleanliness can easily turn a good experience into an unpleasant one. How can we avoid this when most of us are unable to ascertain whether or not a restaurant, caf or other food preparation establishment is really clean?

Food safety inspectors therefore play a very important role in insuring that restaurants and other food outlets maintain acceptable standards of hygiene and cleanliness. Ordinary people can learn to recognise signs indicating whether or not a restaurant is clean and safe to eat at. Here are a few points to think about when deciding whether or not to eat at a particular establishment.

An obvious indication that the dining establishment lacks quality is the presence of garbage and waste both inside and outside the premises. Even if the trash has been removed from the kitchen, the presence of garbage just outside is not a good sign. Overflowing garbage bins attract rodents and the growth of bacteria and germs.

However, not all trash is a problem. If the garbage has not been there for very long and the food waste is not rotting, there is no problem. It is normal for busy restaurants to throw away a lot of food waste every day. A build up of waste is a problem when it is rotting and emits a foul smell. Don’t even consider eating at places where this occurs.

Foul smells should be a red flag when it comes to dining. However, a smell doesn’t have to be really foul for it to be a warning. If you detect a ‘funny’ smell, it is a sign that food may be going off. It also suggests that the restaurant may not be cleaned properly. So, don’t take a risk. If something doesn’t smell quite right, trust your nose and go somewhere else.

There are also signs that you can look for which indicate that a restaurant has high standards. One of the most obvious ones is whether or not it is consistently popular. Let’s face it, if a restaurant has been in business for a while and attracts a lot of business, it is not likely to have poor standards of safety and quality. High turnover also means that food is used and replaced by fresh products regularly, reducing the likelihood of food spoiling or even rotting.

You can also get a lot of information about a place by glancing over the interior of the restaurant. Is it neat and tidy? Are health and safety certifications prominently displayed? Health agencies take their inspection and certification role seriously so positive certifications mean that the restaurant is safe, clean and hygienic. You can go ahead and enjoy your meal.

When we go out to eat, we all want to have a safe and enjoyable experience, but this will be dependent on the cleanliness and hygiene of the establishment. A great tasting meal can become a nightmare if it is full of bacteria. The good news is, by following these tips we can learn to identify and choose safe, clean and hygienic restaurants and avoid those which are suspect.

Warning: Are your Staff Following Your Food Preparation System? 

One thing that commercial restaurants want to avoid is having a customer become ill as a result of eating food that came out of their kitchen. The loss of reputation and the resulting fines could turn this experience into a terrible nightmare.

Most restaurant managers take the initiative to make sure that the entire staff is properly train in regards to food preparation safety. However, that training becomes absolutely useless if the staff doesn’t adhere to the food prep systems that the management has established.

The basics of food hygiene strategies are that all food preparation, storage and handling areas need to be kept scrupulously clean and the food handlers themselves need to maintain scrupulous personal hygiene.

It is common practice for managers to post signs that clearly outline what needs to be done in each area and these signs are felt to be very effective. It is also normal to see signs posted prominently in all restrooms that remind the staff of their responsibility to wash their hands often using warm soapy water and disposable towels for drying.

The kitchen staff needs to have the technical knowledge needed to carry out safe food handling practices. If the city where you do business has a process in place to certify restaurants make sure that the document is easily accessible in the event an inspector should ask for it.

The kitchen staff should have adequate training in each and every step that is required to keep the operation running smoothly. The staff should attend training when they are first hired and then periodically to be sure the staff is reminded of the importance of their duties and is kept abreast of the latest techniques and laws. It is the management’s responsibility to provide ongoing on-the-job training so the staff will never be tempted to cut corners when it comes to food handling and safety.

Regular staff meetings are a necessity and nearly every manager will agrees with this practice. It is the perfect chance to discuss any issues or concerns that the staff may be having. The management should strive to make the employees comfortable enough to voice their opinions or concerns. When staff does bring up a concern it is important that something is done to correct their concerns or they will eventually lose faith and stop voicing their opinions.

In order for restaurant management to work properly the management needs to also implement ‘performance management’ rather than future preventative management. This means that the chinks that may appear as far as compliance to the internal food safety programs you may have set up need to be reviewed frequently for their actual performance. Increasing competition from restaurants across the world means that restaurants need to be much more careful about their food safety and their choices of strategies to maintain their reputation and financial footing.

Food service managers have no choice but to implement an easy to follow internal program that uses self-inspection to make sure that the operating procedures are not just posted but are being religiously followed at all times.

Food service managers need to implement an easy to follow internal program that requires self-inspection to ensure that the standard operating procedures are not only in place but are being judiciously followed at all times. Their experts monitor everything being done in your particular food service, and often improve on existing procedures. Considering what’s at stake, this may often prove to be the best step you may take to stay in business.

Australian Food Safety Week : Safe Food – Smart and Great

Below is a media release from the Food Safety Information Council ‘Australian Food Safety Week : Safe Food – Smart and Great Value’ There is more information on the Food Safety Information Council’s website www.foodsafety.asn.au.

Australian’s increasing interest in better value for money has prompted Food Safety Information Council Chairman, Dr Michael Eyles, to urge us all to put food safety the number one priority when shopping, handling and storing food. Each year it is estimated that there are 5.4 million cases of food poisoning in Australia

“Many of us are looking for cheaper foods, which means we are buying in bulk, seeking out ‘specials’ or more hesitant to thrown out foods we are not too sure about,” Dr Eyles said when launching Australian Food Safety Week 2009, today.

“Cheaper foods are only good value if they are safe,” he said. “This means we have to understand how to select foods which will meet our schedule for when we will eat them, how to handle and store foods to get a safe life from them, and to know when the risk of eating a food is high as far as food poisoning is concerned.”

“To buy in bulk safely and to get the value, you need a plan – without one you run the risk of eating food which is dangerous, or having to lose the value by having to throw food out.

“The plan should include a reasonable time frame in which the food will be eaten, and whether there is enough storage room in your refrigerator or freezer. Also, include sufficient time to repackage the food so that you can defrost an adequate amount for a meal, rather than attempting to thaw the entire purchase at once. Small food packages will defrost well in the refrigerator, while large blocks of meat or fish pose difficulties as the outside will be defrosted for a considerable time before the core of the product defrosts.

Citing best-before and use-by dates, Dr Eyles says consumers need to educate themselves on the meaning of such labelling in order to be able to buy smart.

“Often foods near their use-by date will be on special, as it is illegal to sell them after the date, and the retailer is wanting to move them quickly. These are tempting to the frugal shopper. Again you need a plan.

“Are you able to consume the food before it is past its use-by date? Is the product able to be frozen which will extend its safe life? If the answer to such questions is “No”, then resist the bargain temptation.”

Dr Eyles points out that the best-before date is slightly different as food can be sold and safely consumed after the date.

“The best-before date is nominated by the manufacturer as the date before which the food will be of best quality to consumer. After this date the food will decrease in quality, but will remain safe for a reasonable time. Decisions on best-before dates are made by the manufacturer on the basis of the type of food and the packaging. Consumers buying food near or after the best-before date need to consider these criteria as well.”

With the increasing use of slow cookers to make cheaper meat cuts tender, Dr Eyles stressed the need to keep food out of the temperature danger zone between 5°C and 60°C.

“Make sure the cooker is operating correctly and is above 60°C. As soon as the food stops steaming it should go straight into the refrigerator or freezer. Splitting largte amounts into meal size containers will help the food chill swiftly.

“Underlying good value and safe food are the Food Safety Information Council’s basic food safety tips – Cook, Clean, Chill and Separate. These are still as relevant as ever, to avoid being one of the more than 5 million Australians who suffer food poisoning each year,” he concluded.

The Council’s basic food safety keys are:

  • Avoid the temperature danger zone – serve hot food steaming hot. Put leftovers into the fridge as soon as they stop steaming. Chillall food as soon as possible after cooking or buying. Make sure your fridge is clean, uncluttered and 5°C or below. Ask for ice when buying seafood.
  • Cookchicken, rabbit, sausages, minced meat dishes, hamburgers, rolled and stuffed meats right through, until the juices run clear.
  • Separatefoods that are raw such as chicken, meat and dirty vegetables from foods that are ready to eat such as salads, cooked meats etc. Make sure raw chicken and meat are stored below other foods in the fridge to avoid cross contamination.
  • Keep cooking utensils and all surfaces your food will touch scrupulously clean to avoid contamination with food poisoning bacteria and viruses.
  • Clean your hands. Hands should be washed with soap under warm, running water for 20 seconds and dried for 20 seconds.

NOTE: A comprehensive fact sheet is available at www.foodsafety.asn.au

MEDIA CONTACT: Juliana Madden, Food Safety Information Council

foodsafety@ozemail.com.au

02 6239 7320

0417 491 139

Reproduced with permission of the Food Safety Information Council.

Food Safety: HACCP – What is it? Why did NASA invent it?

Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points or HACCP is a preventive approach to food safety that aims to prevent hazardous effects to consumers by identifying potential food safety hazards in all food industries and applying certain actions known as Critical Control Points to reduce and eliminate threats to the health of consumers.

This system was invented and implemented successfully in the US for NASA by a company called Pillsbury in 1960. At that time Pillsbury was asked to manufacture the foods for NASA’s space flights and needed to ensure the health of the astronauts by preventing illnesses caused by foods. The system was subsequently adopted by the FDA in America.

HACCP and its success for NASA has seen it adopted by numerous others in the food industry. Because it addresses both physical hazards (foreign objects such as glass or plastic in food etc.) and chemical hazards (potentially dangerous ingredients etc.) HACCP assures both the food preparer and the consumer that the food being served is safe to eat.

According to the HACCP guidelines, restaurants should perform hazard analysis (the “HA”) in the storage, preparation, cooking, and packaging of foods to highlight and detect possible food hazards and distinguish the critical control points (the “CCP”) where appropriate prevention and control techniques may be employed to ensure the safety of foods.

Following the hazard analysis and the identification of critical control points, restaurants need to define “critical limits”. At each CCP food must remain within these limits to satisfy the guidelines.

CCP monitoring requirements are then put in place to ensure that each critical control point stays within its predefined limits. If critical control point limits are exceeded, corrective action must be taken; this corrective action must be established so that no public health hazard occurs as a result of this.

To ensure that the system is working effectively procedures need to be carefully monitored, documented and updated. Checks need to be made to ensure that microbial levels are appropriate and that all staff are aware of the correct procedures.

The HACCP systems and procedures should be properly documented and recorded for the purpose of verification and evaluation of the process. Records should include the plan, procedures taken, and the deviations occurred during the process. This is to make sure that the critical limits are not exceeded and that no contaminants pose a threat to customers.

Since restaurants and other food chain stores handle and trade foods, HACCP can help strengthen quality control systems so that these restaurants and their customers can rest assured knowing that high standards of sanitation, refrigeration and storage and handling procedures are in place. Restaurants who can abide by the regulation of this system have lower or no chances of food contamination, and the safety of the customers will be highly recognized.

For commercial restaurants and kitchens, even one incidence of food borne illness can significantly tarnish a hard earned reputation indefinitely, if not forever. A certification in HACCP is highly regarded in the world of food and those businesses who can display this certification are proving to customers and other businesses alike that they are dedicated to providing clean and safe environment in which to enjoy a meal. A certification in HACCP can help improve business by instilling confidence in customers that their meal has been prepared in a safe, sanitary manner. Making sure the food tastes good – well that’s up to you!

Does your Food Preparation Staff Make these Food Safety Mistakes?

If you own a restaurant or a catering service, or you have a great deal of experience in the food industry, you already know that safety concerns should be one of the highest priorities. Not only can poorly prepared and unsafe food have dire consequences for your guests, you’ll find that it is the number one way to make sure that your business plummets. Furthermore, if you are someone who operates in Australia in general or in Victoria in particular, you are already aware that word of mouth can make or break you. If you want to make sure that your food-related business is going to survive, keep the following mistakes in mind and make sure that you can’t be accused of making them.

The first mistake that people often make is that they will not pay attention to what temperature that food is stored at. When you are thinking about the bacteria that most commonly infect food, you’ll find that it will tend to start between 5 °C to 60° C. This is a fairly wide range, and if you have to prepare food a long time before you serve it, make sure that you have taken a look what the temperature conditions are like.

Similarly, keep in mind that foods that are raw and that foods that are cooked are a place where bacteria can be spread and then passed on to your clients. Remember that raw food should always bee kept in their own separate containers and that they should be kept on the lowest level of the refrigerator to avoid their dripping on the raw foods below and possibly contaminating them. Remember that all food, raw or cooked, should be stored in the appropriate containers and that they should always be fully covered.

Remember that your water supply is another important consideration. Keep alert for any water warnings in your area and when it comes to food preparation, remember that you should always be safe rather than sorry. Remember that you can always boil the water first or get water from sealed bottles if you feel that there is a problem. Similarly, keep in mind that ice can be problematic and that it is always better to be safe than sorry.

When it comes to food contamination, remember that the consequences can be severe. You might be dealing with things like a guest’s severe illness, problems with the health inspectors, even a shut down if things are seen as being deeply problematic, so take the time to look over the proper procedures for keeping your kitchen clean and hygienic.

5 Restaurant Food Preparation Tips That You Can Use In Your Home

One of the joys of going out to eat is having the fresh food, prepared especially for you by some incredibly talented chef. However going out to dinner can be very expensive. You are also bothered by other people, interrupted by the server and on occasion rushed through your meal because the restaurant needs the table. What if there was a way that you could recreate the same wonderful dining experience at home? Here are five simple tips that you can do at home to make your kitchen feel like a fine dining kitchen.

Tip One: Labeling
Make sure that everything in your kitchen is labeled. I think we have all at some point picked up something out of the refrigerator and wondered what it was. Spice labels are easily worn off and if you are not familiar with all the scents, you may find that you are adding basil when you wanted to add cilantro.

Tip Two: Clean, Sanitized and Safe
Fine dining restaurants have impeccably clean kitchens. You would not walk into one of Gordon Ramsey’s kitchens and find it a mess. Take the time to clean your kitchen; this is the place that you are preparing food for your self, family and friends. Making sure it is clean will help reduce any possible contamination to food that you are preparing.

Tip Three: Everything In Its Place
You will not walk into a restaurant kitchen and find raw food next to food that is ready to be served to someone. When you are preparing meals make sure that you keep the cooked food in its own place and raw food away. This will also help eliminate contamination.

Tip Four: Go With Fresh
Real chefs never use packaged or pre-made foods. Everything is fresh, right down to the herbs and spices. The freshness of ingredients helps the cook create food that is overflowing with flavor, that will take your taste buds on a delightful journey while you nourish your body.

Tip Five: Be Creative
With a clean kitchen and fresh ingredients don’t be afraid to experiment with recipes. Try new food combinations. When you walk into a fine dining kitchen you aren’t going to see any cook books or recipe cards lying about. Be creative, mix what sounds good. You may find that you are the best chef you know.

Do You Trust The Food You Serve?

Outbreaks of food poisoning have been in the news a lot as of late; as you know, many of these outbreaks were traced to restaurants. No matter where in the world you are, there are safety regulations which must be followed and Victoria, Australia is no exception. Regardless of the kind of food you serve in your establishment, cleanliness and following safety regulations with regard to food handling are good habits to keep and can prevent food poisoning.

Salmonella is a bacterium which can taint many types of food items. Usually, raw meats are the prime suspects in salmonella related food poisoning cases, but pet reptiles can also carry these bacteria. There are two ways to prevent salmonella form causing food poisoning which are guaranteed to be effective: thoroughly cooking food before serving and regular, thorough hand washing before, during and after cooking or eating.

Escherichia coli (or e-coli for short) is a form of bacteria which can cause serious illness or even death. Found naturally inside of the human body and in some foods, some strains can be lethal. E-coli produces harmful, toxic substances and includes unpleasant (to say the least) symptoms including watery and/or bloody diarrhea. A healthy adult can generally weather a case of e-coli food poisoning, but the elderly, the sick and young children are at risk of getting very ill if infected. As with salmonella, the way to prevent e-coli infection is thorough cooking and regular hand washing, along with careful cleaning of all cooking areas. Hand washing should become a thoroughly ingrained habit. You use your hands to pick up everything ? even harmful microbes.

It is understandable that with all of the headlines about food borne illnesses that many may feel as if dining out is tantamount to playing Russian roulette. You can ensure that your restaurant is safe from the hazards presented by infected foods by following the HACCP standards (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points). These standards are designed to ensure the safety of foods made for human consumption. Most are common sense rules, such as putting perishable ingredients like milk back into refrigeration after using and dating items put into the freezer. Running a restaurant kitchen requires that you stay on top of a lot of different things. If you?ve got employees whom you supervise, you must make sure that they are up to speed on HACCP standards and adhere to them. You don?t want all of the work you?ve put into your restaurant to be ruined by one mistake made out of ignorance of the HACCP rules.

Any certifications or stickers you have received from health authorities should be posted where your customers can easily see them. You can let them know in this way that your restaurant has a clean kitchen and they can dine without worry. Your customers will then know that your kitchen has nothing to hide and the food that you serve them is wholesome and can be enjoyed in confidence.

A Career in Hospitality Isn’t Complete Without a Food Safety Course

by Malcolm J. Richmond

Anyone about to begin a career in hospitality in Melbourne needs to know what the professionals already do: this is a tough crowd to please. The smallest damage to your reputation can ruin you in this town. A career in hospitality can be a very rewarding one, but it is something that requires attention to detail and of course, food safety. Before you step into the hospitality industry, you and your staff need to know the applicable food safety regulations inside out.

Your staff has to be prepared for any situation which may arise in the kitchen in terms of food safety and best health practices. This means that each and every member of your staff has to complete a food safety course. Once your staff has completed this course you’ll know that they’ve been properly trained and are aware of all the relevant food safety issues.

What many people do not know is that food safety goes so much further beyond “wash your hands” and “keep everything at the right temperature.” What you are going to need to do is to look into all the small but equally important things that you need to know to make sure that your hospitality business is among the best.

For instance, have you thought about the fact that you need to label everything that goes into your kitchen?

This will help you avoid needing to open containers and then resealing them when it turns out that they are not what you want. Every time a container is opened, it risks being contaminated and you can cut down on this risk by making sure that everyone knows what is in what container.

Whether you’re in the hospitality business proper or your company has any involvement in food preparation or handling, it is essential that your staff take and complete a food safety course. When kitchen staff is not properly trained in food safety, you place your business in peril.

Food preparation personnel who are not aware of proper food safety procedures can quickly lead to a kitchen which harbors disease causing microorganisms. Any risk of sickening a patron due to your kitchen’s sanitation or food handling procedures is one which should be eliminated.

Especially in Melbourne, a single customer made ill by eating in your establishment could be the end of your career in hospitality. A food safety course is a wise investment in the future of your business – and far cheaper than the cost of a lawsuit!

It can be difficult to keep your kitchen staff properly trained in food safety issues. Since the turnover rate in the hospitality industry tends to be rather high, you’ll be faced with the challenge of regularly ensuring that new hires are aware of all the relevant safety issues. Hiring a certification expert and food safety consultant can help your business make sure that the food you serve is safe with regular training and audits of your food preparation areas.

Particularly in Melbourne, proper training for your staff through a food safety course is vitally important to your work in the hospitality industry.

How a simple mistake cost one restaurant $100,000

When people walk into a restaurant to eat, they are putting their trust in you. They blindly have faith that you will serve them food that is fresh and safe to eat. There are several restaurants in Australia right now that are paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars in penalties and settlements because they served contaminated food to patrons who became seriously ill and, in one particular case, died. So, how can you know that your kitchen is safe? Even one mistake leading to an outbreak of illness can permanently damage your establishment’s reputation and finances due to damage claims. Many times these are simple mistakes that could have been easily avoided.

One of the most common problems is salmonella poisoning which cases stomach cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, and dehydration in its victims. This is most often caused by poor food-handling hygiene and inadequate oven cooking temperatures. The Sofia Pizza Restaurant infected at least 33 people with salmonella back in 2004. In 2003, Footscray restaurant Thanh Phu faced a class action suit from 135 people. This is an overwhelming problem that could cost you thousands, not something to shrug off as something that will “never happen to me.”

Victoria, Australia has strict food regulations that force all food distributed in Australia to meet certain requirements. There are also certain standards for importing or exporting food as well. There are several different places that you will need to register with, depending on what kind of food you are mainly selling or preparing. The Food Safety Programme (FSP) details a number of requirements for keeping your kitchen clean and safe. First of all, all measuring devices should be calibrated annually and tested mid-year. A log should be kept listing when sauces and other foods are thawed so there will be record of the time frame in which they should be used. The temperature of delivery trucks and delivered packages should be measured and recorded in said log. Records should also be kept as to when “high risk” foods are discarded. If these rules are not followed, stiff fines will be enforced. This applies to fresh food stands as well as stores and restaurants. There are training programs available to educate your employees as to proper food handling and preparation. While they do can incur an expense, it could save you money in the long run.