What you need to know about food safety to stay in compliance
What you don't know about food hygiene and safety could cost you your business. Learn about food hygiene and safety, stay in compliance with food regulations, and watch your business and reputation grow.
The terms "food hygiene" and "food safety" are often used interchangeably. They simply mean storing, handling, preparing, and serving food in ways that promote good health and hygiene and prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses. When discussing food hygiene and safety, handwashing procedures are usually at the top of the list because dirty hands are one of the most common ways food is contaminated. However, your focus should not only be on this one item. Instead, look at your facility, your employees, and your equipment to identify possible hazards or points of contamination, and then plan ways to prevent it.
Food safety begins with properly stored food. All restaurants have ingredients for making their dishes as well as many types of cleaning supplies, usually stored in the same building. Space might be an issue for the smallest restaurants, but that is never an excuse to improperly store your food by crowding it in with cleaning supplies. Keep food and maintenance supplies separate, and never share those spaces for any reason. Contamination can happen in an instant, so anyone coming from the cleaning supply area into the kitchen should always follow appropriate handwashing procedures.
Food items need to be stored according to their package directions. Even if you think you know a product well, always read the labels. In addition to the specifics for each item, generally speaking, the following food safety guidelines should apply as well.
1. Raw meats, poultry, seafood, and eggs should be kept away from other food items. These are the top culprits of foodborne illness, so pay special attention to their handling. Store raw meats and seafood on the lowest shelves to prevent seepage and dripping onto other foods.
2. Use stock rotation to reduce waste and spoilage; keeping waste under control helps reduce the chances of foodborne illness.
3. Use airtight containers to keep food fresher longer and to prevent contamination from other foods, airborne particles, and germs.
4. Do not overload your storage solutions. It might be tempting to cram as much as you can into every available space, but good airflow around stored items is necessary to keep your establishment clean and to maintain proper temperatures.
Storing, preparing, and serving foods at safe temperatures is a requirement for food safety compliance. It keeps food tasting its freshest and prevents many bacteria from growing. Frequent temperature checks and accurate logging are your responsibilities, so take the time to do these right, every time. Training your staff on proper techniques should be a top priority, as should providing the right tools to get the job done. An incorrect reading puts your customers at risk and can quickly damage your reputation. Here are a few tips on doing this part right the first time.
1. Set a temp-reading schedule and stick to it. Making regular temperature checks part of your staff's daily routine will help keep your food safety rating high. Teach your employees to do this properly right from day one.
2. Log every temperature, and the time it was taken. It may seem redundant and tedious, but having these logs on file will help you manage your restaurant more efficiently. Seeing a report of food temps over a period of days or weeks could help you identify employees who aren't doing the job properly or failing equipment. Catching these negatives early will save your business a lot of money and headache down the line, and it will improve your restaurant's food hygiene.
All food service establishments should follow these basic rules for keeping their establishments clean, and depending on your area and local laws, you may have some additional ones, too. Every step in the cleaning and sanitizing process should be laid out in a clear and understandable format, and every employee should go through training to be sure they know the rules. Include cleaning and sanitizing procedures in all employee handbooks and all training materials, and post appropriate reminders around the back areas to help employees do it right the first time. Include checklists for the following procedures and your employees will always know what's expected of them.
1. Handwashing procedures should be defined, and suitable facilities should be provided.
2. Kitchen and food storage cleaning and sanitizing methods need to be outlined, and a schedule should be posted.
3. The dining area is the face of your business, so keep it spotless and inviting. Make sure employees know that this area should be kept tidy and give them the tools to make it so.
4. Take care of your waste disposal areas to help prevent pest infestation or contaminants coming in on employee shoes or clothing. Proper disposal of waste and recycling are important aspects of food hygiene. Add disposal area maintenance and cleaning to your staff's checklists.
There are a lot of regulations in place to keep food services and restaurants accountable for the health and safety of their customers. It's a lot to keep track of, but this is an area where you can't skimp. Everything needs to be logged and tracked and kept for future audits, and this means your office could soon end up a mess of file folders and logbooks and loose papers. If you had to quickly find the logs for something that happened six months ago, you might as well kiss your weekend goodbye. Digging through your old files is time-consuming and frustrating, and you know that you could be spending that time doing something more constructive for your business. Thankfully, there's an easy way to do it all.
Believe it or not, having the right software at your disposal will help you improve your food hygiene and safety with a simple tap. Keep track of employee checklists, monitor food temperatures, and take immediate corrective action should something go wrong, all without you having to leave your office. Zip HACCP is a one-stop app that covers every aspect of food safety compliance, including logging temperatures in real-time and listing corrective actions, as well as checklists for all types of procedures to keep your restaurant in compliance. Zip HACCP is an affordable, powerful food safety solution you can trust. Looking for more information on food hygiene and safety? We've got some great resources here.