25 Food Safety Tips
Over the last year, food safety (or a lack thereof) has been at the center of more than a few food service industry scandals. With same-store sales on a slight incline, the last thing any concept would wish for is a setback like a norovirus or Hepatitis A outbreak.
Of course, practicing good food safety measures has an effect that reaches well beyond business objectives: “Reducing foodborne illness by just 1 percent would keep about 500,000 Americans from getting sick each year” (source).
With such high stakes, it’s important to build a meticulous food safety culture at your concept. Here are 25 tips on how to do just that…
Making the Rules
1. Set a schedule.
“Look at key timeframes for your restaurant. When do employees’ shifts start? When are peak times for your customer base? Where are your “hot spots,” or potential contamination areas? This review will allow you to determine your restaurant’s typical cleaning and sanitizing frequency and, ultimately, which employees should carry out these tasks. Make your scheduling document accessible and easy for employees to understand.” (source)
2. Plan for the worst.
“Develop a food safety risk mitigation plan. Practice active managerial control throughout the flow of food. This includes anticipating potential foodborne illness risk factors and then controlling or eliminating them, which entails identifying risks, monitoring them, providing corrective action as needed, and management oversight.” (source)
3. Check local food safety regulations.
“These rules are set by your city, county, district, or state. Each community may have the same or slightly different food safety rules and requirements for food vendors.” (source)
Training the Team
4. Train every single employee – front and back of house.
“Create clear, thorough training procedures for new and existing restaurant employees, so there’s never a question regarding who’s in the know about food safety measures.” (source)
5. Keep it interesting.
“Make food safety training engaging. With a workforce largely under the age of 25, employers need to make sure their messages are quick and easy to grasp.” (source)
6. Explain the consequences.
“Teach employees the ‘how’ and the ‘why.’ When showing employees how to prepare food, clean and sanitize surfaces, and dispose of any waste, share all the reasons why following through every time is important.” (source)
7. Demonstrate the procedures.
“During employee training, show staff how to clean and sanitize food contact surfaces. Also show staff any buckets, towels or other equipment you’ve designated for cleaning and sanitizing purposes; these items should never come into contact with food, due to contamination threats. Walk through how to clean and sanitize these items and how to dispose of any associated waste, like dirty water.” (source)
8. Remind your staff regularly.
“Hold regular trainings for your kitchen and wait staff on proper hygiene measures. This can range from when to wear hair nets and gloves to proper hand-washing techniques. By routinely bringing up safety measures, good hygiene will become second nature. Don’t forget to post hand washing signs in all restrooms.” (source)
9. Make food safety part of your culture.
“Emphasize that food safety is a shared responsibility. Quality assurance officials may be a brand’s food safety face, but making sure food safety standards are upheld is a shared responsibility. Third-party assessments can be a powerful way to drive that message home.” (source)
Enforcing Food Safety Policies
10. Keep uniforms clean.
“If an employee’s clothing gets dirty, it should be replaced with a clean garment. Failing to do so can not only affect customer perception but also lead to cross-contamination.” (source)
11. Take good care of thermometers.
“To remove any guesswork from your temperature tracking, monitor diligently with thermometers. Before recording a temperature, allow 15 seconds after you insert the device’s stem into the thickest part of food.” (source)
12. Keep temperatures safe.
“When you prepare or store food, keep temperatures below 41°F or above 135°F. Any temperature that falls in between will welcome growth of harmful bacteria.” (source)
13. First in, first out.
“When receiving a shipment of supplies bring older supplies to the front and place new food products near the back. This will ensure older items get used before expiring, minimizing food waste and risks that come with cooking food too close to their end dates. Food labels are an easy way to note when an item was received and the expiration date.” (source)
14. Designate certain equipment for certain tasks.
“Each type of food should be prepped and handled with a separate piece of equipment. For example, use one set of cutting boards, utensils and containers for raw poultry. Use another set for raw meat, and use a third set for produce. Some operations use colored cutting boards and utensil handles to help keep equipment separate. If this system is not possible at your restaurant, prep food at different times.” (source)
15. Clean equipment thoroughly and regularly.
“Routine cleaning of your equipment and prep areas will minimize the chance of cross-contamination. Proper maintenance of your equipment also ensures thermometers provide accurate reads and temperatures are held at safe levels.” (source)
16. Sanitize all surfaces.
“Ensure staff is properly sanitizing dining tables between settings. When using tablecloths, swap them out for a fresh one during the resetting of the table to prevent spreading of bacteria. Don’t use a tablecloth? Have your staff wipe down surfaces (include seats and menus) with a damp cloth and disinfectants.” (source)
17. And don’t forget prep stations.
“Having a designated area to prep and store flatware and dishes makes for easy resetting of the tables, however, these areas often get missed from the standard cleaning regimen. Bacteria and dust can settle in prep areas, making for unsanitary conditions. Consider adding the areas where you keep dishes and flatware to your cleaning schedule to regularly sanitize cutlery boxes and wipe down the surfaces.” (source)
18. Risks not rewarded.
“When in doubt, throw it out! If you have any suspicion that a food might be spoiled — including an uncharacteristic odor or color or damaged packaging – throw it out. It simply isn’t worth the risk.” (source)
19. Follow through on allergen-free promises.
“For diners with food allergies, going out to eat can be a life-threatening experience if the kitchen staff does not practice proper allergen safety. ‘The Big 8’ are the eight most common food allergies: milk, fish, soybeans, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, shellfish, and wheat. Avoid crossing these common allergens with other foods by using food allergy safety products, especially if you are labeling a specific dish ‘allergy free.’” (source)
20. Hold yourself accountable.
“Conduct self-inspections regularly to ensure kitchens are sanitary, food safety rules are being followed, and mistakes aren’t being made. It’s also valuable to hire third-party inspectors to examine your facility and observe your employees in action. An objective outsider often sees things that internal teams may overlook.” (source)
Avoiding Common Mistakes
21. Don’t let cleaning chemicals sneak into your recipes.
“Storing or using chemicals on or near food and food-contact surfaces. If chemicals get into food, it can be very harmful to the consumer. The best way to prevent chemicals from getting into food is making sure that they are used and stored away from food and food-contact surfaces. In addition, it is important to clearly label all chemicals so they are not confused for other chemicals or even food items. This Use Chemicals Safely Poster details other ways to use chemicals safely.” (source)
22. Don’t forget to wash your hands.
“Handwashing is one of the most critical components for preventing foodborne illness. Employees should wash their hands after completing tasks that could have contaminated their hands, such as taking out the garbage and handling money. This also includes if they touch their face or hair.” (source)
23. Better to let the sick stay at home.
“Ill employees working their normal duties can cause foodborne illness outbreaks. Even though you may need the employee to work due to high demand, it is important to restrict or exclude the employee based on the symptoms or diagnoses they have.” (source)
24. Don’t thaw food on the counter.
“To thaw food, you should take it out of the freezer and slap it on the counter – right? Wrong. Harmful germs can multiply extremely rapidly at room temperature – making your food unsafe to eat. To thaw food safely, let it defrost in the refrigerator, cold water, or pop it in the microwave and use the defrost setting.” (source)
25. Don’t let one dirty work surface bring the whole place down.
“Dirty work surfaces, utensils, cutting boards, ice bucket and other kitchen tools can carry bacteria and other hazards, which can contaminate foods and other surfaces and cause foodborne illness. Also, bacteria can grow as they sit on these items over a period of time. Wiping cloths can also spread contaminants from surface to surface.” (source)