The Art of Food Handling | Leveraging Apps for Food Safety
We've discussed a lot of HACCP aspects, such as food safety, sanitation, and contamination, which are all key issues faced by any professional food service establishment. That being said, these aspects all fall under the responsibility of an overarching umbrella, food handling and the food handlers. A food handler is responsible for executing the proper techniques of storing, preparing, and consuming food. The handling of food involves some processes, 4 to be exact, which we will discuss in just a minute, but the core idea is that a food handler's job begins the moment food is produced and ends the moment it is disposed of.
Proper food handling, i.e. food handling that guarantees a certain degree of food safety is not terribly difficult. However, for food handlers with no experience in the area, the task of adjusting every facet of how they interact with food can be a daunting one to take on. Restaurant management apps, such as our own Zip HACCP, are excellent tools for helping conquer and shorten the learning curve associated with relearning how to deal with food. This article will discuss this idea in more detail, and give you some pointers on how to implement these techniques and ideas with your food handlers as quickly as today.
What Is Proper Food Handling?
Before we can discuss how Zip HACCP can help with proper food handling techniques, we should assess exactly what processes are involved in food handling in the first place. As previously mentioned, the US Department of Agriculture lists four different elements of food handling.
Each of these components is just as important as the one before, and every one has its own unique sets of requirements, as will be discussed in this section.
The first element of proper food handling is cleaning. While this may, to some extent, involve the proper cleaning of the food, especially fresh fruit and vegetables, what it is referring to is the thorough cleaning of hands and cooking surfaces by food handlers, such as countertops and stove areas. Doing this helps to further eliminate food safety issues such as cross-contamination (something we'll get to in a second), as well as keeping food handlers as free from any bacteria associated with things like raw chicken or beef. This is, without a doubt, one of the single most, if not the most, important components of proper food handling and food management.
The next element is separating, which, in reference to food handlers, describes the process necessary to prevent cross-contamination. We've gone over cross-contamination at length in other articles so we won't drive the idea any further into your head. Suffice to say, the risks associated with cross-contamination extend far beyond risks to the health of your staff and clients. There is the potential for serious monetary damages associated with cross-contamination, especially if a food allergy is involved. Overall, it's best to take extra care to avoid letting this happen.
Element number three is cooking. The USDA defines cooking, in relation to food handling, as the process necessary to ensure that food is cooked to the proper and safe temperature. It's imperative that care is taken to ensure this, as food, especially meat, that isn't cooked completely can result is some serious health concerns on its own, even without the presence of cross-contamination.
The final major element for food handlers is chilling. According to the USDA, chilling is the step that involves the storage of food, both before cooking and immediately after, especially in the case of leftovers or food that is prepared long in advance of being served. With uncooked food, this is important to keep the food from spoiling. Some foods, especially greens, fruits, and vegetables, are very obvious when they've gone bad. Some, though, doesn't present themselves as easily, and in a kitchen full of various smells, it may be difficult to notice that the chicken has gone. Proper storage means that you at least guarantee the food will last the duration of its life, if not potentially a bit after. In the case of cooked foods, this is essential because its lifespan decreases dramatically after only a few hours post-cooking if not properly refrigerated.
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How Can Zip HACCP Support Food Handlers?
Now that we've established exactly what proper food handling consists of, it's time to discuss how restaurant and food management apps, like Zip HACCP, can help your food handlers adjust to food handling and management techniques more seamlessly.
For starters, Zip HACCP offers a range of checklists for businesses to use. These cover everything from ordering to fully customizable checklists, either made from scratch or based on any number of templates. These lists can be especially useful when it comes to keeping track of things like routine cleaning and even some of the more in-depth kind of cleaning that goes on during days the restaurant is closed, or overnight. Since the lists are stored in the app, not only are they impossible to lose, but they also make it so that everyone, including your food handlers, can see what has already been done and what still needs to be. This applies directly to both cleaning and, to a lesser extent, separating, where it can be checked off that food has been placed in the appropriate areas.
2. Bluetooth Capability
As for cooking and chilling, Zip HACCP offers a solution to these processes as well. Bluetooth capability within the app itself allows for the connection of compatible Bluetooth thermometers, which can be used both for monitoring storage temperatures for foods as well as for monitoring the cooking temperature as well. These temperatures can be monitored directly within the app, and this can be done remotely, allowing the food handlers to more evenly divide their time and allowing administrators to keep an eye on things even when nobody is one site.
There you have it, our look at the art of food handling and how a food management app like Zip HACCP can make following these handling guidelines a seamless thing for both administration and employees.
While you're here, you should have a look at The Definitive Guide to HACCP and Food Safety | 7 HACCP Principles article on our blog, which gives you an overview of restaurant and food management and how apps like Zip HACCP can help you improve your business!