A food safety plan should be part of a restaurant’s standard operating procedure. After all, if you don’t have a plan for food safety, then how can you identify potential problems, and how do you know what issues to look for? According to new research from Zenput and Technomic, only 34% of survey respondents reported they are “very confident” that their operation is able to identify potential food safety concerns before they become an issue. This is 16% lower than what was reported the previous year.
A common culprit of food safety problems stems from cross-contamination and a lack of knowledge about how to prevent it.
Your food safety plan should address how to avoid cross-contamination. Cross-contamination is the transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods, hands, cutting boards, utensils, etc. The most common form of cross-contamination is from mishandling raw meats. By not separating raw meats from each other as well as from ready-to-eat foods, you are increasing the risk of foodborne illness.
To help you tackle this common restaurant kitchen problem, we have three ways a food safety plan can help you prevent cross-contamination.
To avoid cross-contamination in food storage areas, food should be stored in this order if on the same rack:
As you can see, raw chicken should always be on the bottom. If raw chicken is stored above produce, the potential for salmonella from the chicken to contaminate the produce will increase. Note that if someone eats this produce with salmonella, they will become sick. Larger operations with more space may have all raw chicken on one rack and ready-to-eat foods in another storage area. This is the best way to prevent cross-contamination during storage. Check out our handy Restaurant Walk-In Food Safety Guide with best practices on how a walk-in cooler should be organized. And don’t miss the video at the end that shows an example of a walk-in that’s set up with food safety in mind.
A solid food safety plan should address prep areas, cutting boards and utensils. When knives, scoops, spoons, cutting boards, counters, etc., come in contact with raw meats, they must be cleaned and sanitized before coming in contact with other foods. This becomes more difficult in small kitchens that handle many different raw meats. If you avoid doing this, then it’s not a matter of if but when foodborne illness will happen in your restaurant. Try these tips:
The most important thing to manage during service, and to avoid cross-contamination, is proper hand washing. This should be an important part of any food safety training program. Just like utensils and prep areas, if hands come in contact with raw meats, they must be washed with soap and hot water before handling any equipment or food. Even when wearing gloves, if handling any raw meats, hands need to be washed and gloves changed. On a large cook line, it’s best to have one cook handle raw beef and a different cook handle all the raw chicken and so on.
When a health inspector observes the kitchen, he or she will check to see if employees are wearing gloves and washing hands when necessary. If proper hand washing isn’t happening, the inspector should report it as a critical violation.
Cross-contamination is extremely difficult to prevent 100% of the time. However, putting policies in place for the storage and handling of raw meats is your best defense in keeping food and customers safe. Make sure all employees are trained on safe food-handling policies. For additional help, here are some additional tools to help with outfitting your food safety plan: