Monthly Archive for November, 2009

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!