food-safety | 14 mins read

Food Safety and Sanitation Checklist- 10 Steps to Safeguard Your Business

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Debdutta Bhattacharjee

By Debdutta Bhattacharjee

Why is Food Safety Important?

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Food safety and sanitation is a critical consideration for any business. The sales numbers of a restaurant would be meaningless without effective food safety precautions. A restaurant that pays little attention to food safety in the handling of food will undoubtedly face official punishments, such as costly fines and even shutdown orders, and its business will suffer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mentions foodborne illness to be one of the leading causes of disease in the United States.

According to the CDC, 31 recognized pathogens (such as bacteria, parasites, and viruses) plus numerous unspecified agents result in roughly 50 million instances of domestically-acquired foodborne illness in the US each year. This equates to one out of every six Americans suffering from foodborne illness each year. When you take into consideration roughly 130,000 hospitalizations and over 3,000 deaths, you know that you have a serious problem on your hands. The coronavirus that has been destroying lives for the past two years makes food safety even more important.

Fever, stomach cramps, vomiting, and severe diarrhea are common symptoms of food poisoning. It is especially dangerous for young children, aged people, patients with impaired immune systems, and pregnant women.

Aside from biological dangers, food products can be contaminated by chemical hazards such as cleaning agents, pesticides, insecticides, and food additives, as well as physical hazards such as glass, human hair, packaging material, jewelry, pest droppings, animal fur and feathers, dead insects, and so on. Food might also be harmful if it contains allergens or materials that trigger allergic reactions.

Recalling food that is contaminated comes with a hefty price tag. When you factor in government fines and lawsuit costs, the financial consequences of failing to follow food safety regulations would be crippling for any food service company. Also, its reputation could be tarnished for good.

Apart from microbes, food can be spoiled by air, enzymes, light, and pests. Food that is spoiled needs to be discarded, and discarded food adds to the problem of wastage of food. According to a survey by the US Food and Drug Administration, 30-40% of food in the US goes uneaten. This amounts to 20 pounds of food every month per person and implies that food worth $165 billion is wasted every year in the US.

Maintaining safety and sanitation is especially difficult for food service businesses such as quick-service restaurants and food trucks that deal with a high volume of customers, and large orders, and look to provide fast-paced services.

Difference Between Sanitation and Cleaning

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While cleaning is primarily concerned with the removal of dirt, dust, and other particles, sanitation deals with comprehensive cleanliness, which involves removing dirt and germs in order to make the environment clean.

Cleaning entails washing, brushing, or wiping away all contaminants that are visible on the surface, such as food particles, dirt, dust, and so on. This is a surface-level technique that does not kill bacteria but can help lower their numbers.

Sanitation seeks to safeguard public health by creating a clean environment that can prevent diseases from spreading. It involves seven steps-

1. Dry pickup- Removing extra soil with a dry pickup is the first step toward optimal food safety and sanitation. Dry pickup may be the only cleaning procedure required in locations close to the production floor. It involves cleaning without water and can be done with a brush or by scraping to remove dirt.

2. Pre-rinsing- This technique removes more grime before compounds or scrubbers are applied. To properly dislodge any contaminant sticking to the food surfaces or the equipment, a top-down technique should be employed and hot water should be used at high pressure for rinsing. Diluted detergents may also be used.

3. Applying cleaning agents- Detergents are affected by water properties. Some substances may interact with water elements, making water less effective. Depending on the type of soil, select a cleaning agent. More alkaline cleaners are required to remove heavy organic residue oil such as fats, meat residues, and so on.

4. Post-rinsing procedures- This prevents the transmission of cleaning chemicals and detergents to food. Cleaners that are harsh or toxic should not be used. Post-rinsing is simply another rinsing procedure that removes cleaning agents from the equipment and other surfaces that may come into touch with food.

5. Preliminary examination- A preliminary inspection usually consists of several segments. These may include various groups or departments, as well as several layers of workers examining areas, thoroughly or as part of a randomly sampled examination.

6. Pre-operative examination- This constitutes the final visual check. This assesses the cleanliness of the facilities and equipment. Pre-operative inspections are extremely detailed and necessitate the use of highly skilled staff.

7. Applying sanitizers- Sanitization involves reducing the number of microorganisms on the surface of a substance after it has been cleaned. Sanitizers must be able to reduce the number of microbes to a level that is safe according to public health guidelines. Sanitizers must be able to eliminate 99.999% of the test bacteria in under 30 seconds to meet CDC standards.

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5 Food Safety Sanitation Rules

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1. Inspect regularly- Managers should visit the kitchens, dining spaces, and restrooms on a frequent basis to ensure that hygiene standards are met. The kitchen must be well cleaned, and after each task, clean towels should be used to wipe all surfaces that come directly in contact with food. Sterilize equipment such as the range, oven, deep fryer, etc at least three times a week. Blenders, cutting boards, countertops, grills, and other frequently used kitchen objects should be sterilized on a daily basis.

2. Take care of personal hygiene- Before working with food items, utensils, other kitchen equipment, and linens, or between food handling duties, make sure that the employees thoroughly wash and dry their hands. Employees must ensure that nails are well-trimmed, and clean, should change uniforms after each shift, and wash their hands at intervals of three hours. When handling food, it is important to wear hand gloves and protective headwear. Gloves must be replaced in between tasks or if they become ripped or soiled. Open sores on their hands and arms should be covered thoroughly with waterproof bandages.

3. Kitchen equipment sanitization- Restaurant hygiene standards have to be maintained to ensure that pieces of kitchen equipment work well and last long. Routine upkeep of expensive kitchen equipment will make sure they remain in good shape. Therefore, food handlers should not keep on using the same cutting boards. Sanitizing water should be changed and trash cans emptied on a regular basis. Wipes, mops, brushes, detergents, and sanitizers should be stored securely and kept away from food.

4. Prepare hygiene checklists- The restaurant manager should prepare a hygiene checklist mentioning the precise cleaning activities that must be completed by the staff. This checklist would be determined by the size of the establishment. It is, however, important for the cleaning checklist to be simple enough for the staff to understand.

5. Adequate ventilation- All restaurants must be well-ventilated to ensure the safety of both employees and customers. It plays an important part in upholding the restaurant's sanitary standards. Proper ventilation is necessary for the safe production and storage of meals. This will ultimately lead to a good customer experience.

5 Food Safety Rules

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1. The raw materials used to prepare meals must be fresh. Wash your hands often, and kitchen instruments, and counters after every use. Wash hands at least for 20 seconds in warm soapy water and follow other personal hygiene procedures before and after food is touched. Cutlery, dishes, knives, countertops, etc should all be washed in hot soapy water. Fruits and vegetables should be rinsed. However, meat, poultry items, fish, and eggs should not be washed. Water splashing from the sink during the washing process may cause the bacteria to spread. Before opening canned foods, the lids should be cleaned.

2. Raw and cooked items should be kept separate. Germs can pass from one food item to another. Raw meat, seafood, poultry, and eggs should be separated from other food products. If you have used a marinade on raw foods before, bring it to a boil before thinking about reusing it. Reserve a cutting board or plate specially for raw food.

3. Food maintained between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit would see pathogens doubling every 20 minutes. According to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), this is the food temperature danger zone. This zone falls between 41 and 135 F, according to ServSafe, the US National Restaurant Association's training and certification program. ServSafe recommends that meals should not be allowed to sit in the temperature danger zone for more than four hours. Food must be cooked to a safe minimum internal temperature. Some of the recommended safe internal temperatures are 165 F for poultry products and leftovers; 160 F for egg dishes, and ground beef; and 145 for fish. A food thermometer is an important tool in this regard.

4. Store food in the refrigerator as soon as possible. To ensure food safety, cold-holding equipment should keep food at 40 F or lower. After removing cold food items from the refrigerator, they must be consumed within six hours. Cold food items must be checked at intervals of two hours. They should be discarded if the temperature reaches 70 F or higher. Food should be refrigerated or frozen within two hours of cooking or purchase. If it's 90 F or hotter outside, this should be done within an hour.

5. Never thaw frozen food at room temperature. Thawing food in the refrigerator is the safest method. It will be held in the refrigerator at or below 41 F and this would keep microorganisms at bay. Food can also be thawed in a microwave oven, in cold water, or as part of the cooking exercise. Food that has been thawed using a microwave oven or cold water should be cooked right away.

How Can Food Safety Guidelines be Enforced?

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The US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Commerce's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) all play major roles in food safety regulatory activities in the US.

Barring poultry products and meat, the Food and Drug Administration monitors all domestic and imported food items. The FSIS, on the other hand, looks to ensure that poultry products and meat are safe and wholesome, and are properly labeled, marked, and packaged.

The EPA decides the maximum amount of pesticide that a food item may contain. The NMFS offers importers and processors voluntary seafood inspection.

In the US, food safety rules are very strict. The Food Code is compiled by the Food and Drug Administration, but local governments have the power to make their own laws on food safety based on the FDA standards. Restaurant inspections can be routine or follow-up in nature and can be used to determine whether HACCP protocols are being followed. They could also be the consequence of complaints filed with the health department. Violations of food safety rules could result in hefty fines, and repeated infractions may result in the restaurant having to shut shop.

Restaurant employees, particularly the new ones, may not be entirely aware of all food safety regulations, and as a result, commit minor errors that could have major Public Health consequences. When customers' health is jeopardized, the image of the food service business is tarnished, lawsuits are filed, and the restaurant's earnings suffer.

Therefore, every restaurant employee should be educated on foodborne illnesses, personal hygiene requirements, cleaning and sanitation, and their participation in the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point or Haccp Plan .

A strong food safety culture would encourage restaurant management and workers to follow food safety rules, and everyone from the business owner to the server would take responsibility.

Food safety practices in restaurants must be independently reviewed and audited regularly considering that restaurant practices have a bearing on the health of a large percentage of the population.

A strict food safety audit will discourage restaurants from sacrificing food safety standards for short-term gains. Businesses may also take the help of third-party auditors to tighten the loose ends prior to the Food and Drug Administration inspections.

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What is HACCP Software?

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HACCP software is a set of tools used by businesses involved in food preparation, food handling, and food distribution. They are crucial in assisting businesses to implement control methods for protecting food items from food safety hazards. These software solutions let foodservice businesses stay HACCP-compliant and contribute to not only Disease Control , but also save businesses from the drain of wealth on account of court cases, federal fines, and lost sales.

The Zip HACCP software, which is available on the Hubworks app store for restaurants, makes food safety monitoring simple and straightforward. It allows a foodservice company's management to keep track of important duties in real-time and to ensure that the employees do not deviate from standard operating procedures.

Zip HACCP allows restaurateurs to keep track of tasks from anywhere, at all times. Restaurant owners using Zip HACCP would be confident that food safety measures are being followed in the restaurant and would be instantly alerted if any serious issues develop.

Updates can be synced across all devices, allowing restaurant owners to make informed decisions. Relying on the reports provided by the Zip HACCP mobile app, business owners are able to quickly examine and take follow-up action on checklists and call for corrective actions wherever in the world they may be.

Employees will always know how to manage food safety issues with the assistance of hazard control checklists, integrated temperature solutions, and necessary corrective action checklists. Restaurateurs can get real-time food safety information as well as visibility into the state of the hazard control checklists, ensuring that their businesses are always safe. This ensures that the business owners are always in command.

With the help of the Cooper-Atkins Blue2 Bluetooth food temperature monitor, which can be easily integrated with the Zip HACCP software, restaurant employees can ensure that they neither cook the meals too much nor too little, and also see to it that the temperature danger zone can be avoided and the meals are free of pathogens. It also ensures that the food handlers are accountable for temperature checks. The automatic logging feature helps in keeping information structured.

5 Benefits of HACCP Software

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1. Compliance with the HACCP principles lets restaurants assure customers that their goods are free of biological, chemical, and physical contaminants, as well as allergens. A restaurant can use the HACCP system to identify critical control points where action must be taken to ensure food safety.

2. Customers would return to a restaurant in which they believe the food is safe. The image of a HACCP-certified food service business would greatly improve among the customers, and that would mean more business.

3. Meals prepared in accordance with HACCP standards would have greatly improved food quality. For example, cooking at the proper internal temperature ensures that the food isn't over or undercooked.

4. The HACCP system clearly lays down in written form the food safety norms, and specifications for all items, from ingredients to packaging materials. This takes the guesswork out of the system and boosts employee efficiency.

5. Government sanctions and consumer litigation are the two largest threats to a company that ignores Food Safety regulations. Legal fights can be exceedingly expensive, result in customer resentment, and permanently harm a company's brand image. Customer dissatisfaction would result in lower sales volumes. Furthermore, government fines can be substantial. Following the HACCP guidelines would protect a business from these hassles.

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