Essential Food Safety for All Restaurant Owners

For a restaurant, there is no way to ruin a good reputation faster than a confirmed case of food poisoning. It is actually a simple process to keep your kitchen and staff up to date with regulations and avoid potential disaster.

Food poisoning is a colloquial term to describe an illness that arises after eating poorly cooked, spoiled, tainted or dirty food. These infections arise from bacteria, parasites and viruses that are found in the food. The resulting illness can include stomach pain, nausea, stomach cramps, headaches and diarrhea. Most illnesses pass within 24 hours, but some remain for weeks, such as Hepatitis.

There are four C’s to think about when maintaining a food safe kitchen: Cooking, cleaning, chilling and cross-contamination. It’s a simple process to keep the kitchen compliant and make sure the kitchen and wait staff understand the basics.

Clean

Clean hands: Keeping everything clean shouldn’t be a big drama but basic cleaning and hygiene will result in a lesser risk of cross contamination. Basically, you need to wash your hands. A lot. Staff need to wash their hands after using the bathroom, eating a meal, sneezing or coughing, touching animals, using your phone, or touching rubbish or dirty dishes. Also, wash hands after handling raw meat, poultry, eggs or chicken.

Washing your hands is not just a quick burst of cold water either- it should be soap and hot water for at least twenty seconds, followed by thorough drying.

Clean restaurant: Clean constantly. For every action, there should be a cleaning reaction. Even when busy, staff should not cut corners. Clear food promptly from both in the restaurant and in the kitchen. Dirty dishes and food leftovers should never be in the same place as recently prepared food. Wipe down counters constantly after use. Don’t leave liquids or food scraps on the bench. Wash and sanitise dishes regularly.

At the end of each day, ovens, stoves, grilles and hoods need to be cleaned. Ensure the walk-ins are sealed correctly. Clear prep areas and empty and replace prep pans.

Cook

Cooking meat to the correct temperature is vital to kill any parasites or germs on the product. Use a food thermometer to check that the internal temperature is correct. Certain meats such as beef or fish can be served raw in tartar or sashimi, but pork and chicken must always be cooked completely, all the way through.

·         75oC for all ground meat such as chicken and beef

·         75oC for chicken, stuffed foods, stews and casseroles

·         68oC for sausages

·         62oC for eggs and whole cuts of pork, fish and beef

·         58oC for vegetables, soups and hot dogs

Chill

Food can go off really quickly, especially in warmer climates or in hot kitchens. A few extra minutes placed next to the grill or sitting on a prep table can be the difference between health or sickness. In general, perishable food should not be left at room temperature for more than two hours. Once the temperature of the food is between 5oC- 60oC, it is in the danger zone, where bacteria breed.

Avoid cross contamination

Cooked food and raw food should never be stored in close proximity. Bacteria from raw foods can easily spread to cooked foods and contaminate it. While home cooks should simply store raw meats on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator, a commercial kitchen may need a separate fridge for cooked and raw foods.

Also invest in a simple cutting board system. Raw meat and ready-to-eat food that doesn’t require cooking should have different chopping boards. It might be as simple as red for meat and green for veggies. Make a simple system and make sure all staff follow it.

One way to ensure your food doesn’t cross contaminate is to invest in a digital food control plan. https://www.safefoodpro.co.nz/ is a NZ based company that specializes in such software.

Keep it covered

Where possible, require cooking and waitstaff to wear disposable gloves. This is especially important while creating ready to eat foods like sandwiches and salad. While gloves to decrease sensitivity while chopping or cooking, they protect food from your hands and any bacteria that is present.

Replace gloves after touching anything outside the immediate task you are doing. Remember, for servers, one hand takes the money and one hand gives the food. There is no point wearing gloves to collect cash if you are then going to handle food- cash is covered in bacteria.

Replace disposable kitchen items

Gloves, kitchen sponges, hand towels- all have limited life cycles of usefulness. One of the most bacteria-ridden items in a kitchen is a kitchen sponge and dishcloth. Wash handtowels daily, and dry in the sun if possible to kill germs, or wash on a high heat. Sponges have a limited life cycle, throw them out as you cannot guarantee their safety.

Train your staff

In the hospitality industry, it is vital that staff do not attend work when sick. Not only will they likely have contact with customers and transmit illness directly to other people, but they will have contact with food. Both types of contact spread disease and illness. Employees should stay home if they have diarrhoea or vomiting, a foodborne illness such as salmonella, Hepatitis A or e. coli, sneezing or coughing or the flu. Also be aware that any wounds that cannot be covered and wholly protected from food can cause illness.

There are loads of little ways that things can go wrong in a restaurant. A few basic rules will cut any incidents to a minimum.

In the kitchen, hair nets and, if needed, beard nets are required. Waitstaff should have tidy hair and long hair should be pulled back cleanly. You don’t want to drop hair in your customer’s meals.

Keep fingernails trimmed and clean of any food residue.

A few simple steps make your restaurant a safer place to be for your patrons. Make sure your staff understand the rules and always abide by them.

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