10 Food Safety Tips for Your Commercial Kitchen
by Consolidated Food Service
Promote hand washing
The beginning of all food safety comes from hand washing. This starts with providing a dedicated hand washing station for your employees. This will minimize cross-contamination and let your employees have clean hands before touching any food, whether it be meat or vegetables. Even the smallest amount of bacteria can make someone sick if it’s on a piece of food, so hand washing is key. All of your staff should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds under running water after soaping up well.
Don’t let sick workers prepare food
The CDC’s Environmental and Health Sciences branch conducted a survey of 486 food workers in nine states. The results showed that 5% of workers said they prepared food when they were suffering from a bout of vomiting or diarrhea. By doing so, they put their customers’ health at risk. If your employees are sick, keep them away from the food.
Your workers should be wearing gloves when preparing a food in a commercial kitchen, but they can’t use the same gloves for every ingredient It’s important that they change their gloves regularly when moving from raw meat and poultry to cooked food. If they don’t change their gloves, they can spread contaminants to the customer’s food, which may lead to food poisoning. Have boxes of gloves available so your workers can change them efficiently and properly.
Wash food properly
Make sure your staff washes fruits and vegetables properly. Even if a vegetable will be peeled or skinned, it must still be washed, or you risk spreading any outer bacteria to the interior as you prepare it. A colander will make the task easier, just make sure you only use the colander for fruits and vegetables, and not any other ingredients, such as pasta. Tomatoes require special care, as 12 cases of Salmonella have been linked to tomatoes in recent years. You should never let your tomatoes soak in standing water, but instead run them under cold water to scrub thoroughly. Fruits and vegetables should be washed under cold running water or with a commercial FDA-approved fruit and vegetable rinse. You can check with your local health department to see which options you may use in your kitchen.
Cook to the right temperatures
Is your food being cooked to the right temperature? You should make you and all of your kitchen staff are aware of the guidelines. Chicken, for instance, needs to be cooked to 165°F. The FDA advises restaurants should cook ground beef to a temperature of 155°F for 15 seconds. This is to prevent E-coli, which is found in ground beef, and accounts for many cases of foodborne illness. Any type of meat being prepared and cooked in a commercial kitchen should be checked with a thermometer for proper temperature, however, do not use the same thermometer for multiple types of meat.
Food illness often stems from cross-contamination, where you can spread bacteria from raw meat or poultry to ready-to-eat foods. You should separate cutting boards for raw produce, raw uncooked meat, poultry, seafood and eggs. You may opt to label each board with its intended purpose, or use a color coded system. Find what works best for your kitchen, but be sure to get the boards separate from one another. Don’t forget to use separate utensils and meat thermometers as well.
Store food correctly and at the right temperature
All of your kitchen’s raw meat and poultry should be kept separate from other foods, especially vegetables, prepared sauces, and anything else that requires little preparation. The FDA advises food should be cooled to 41°F or below, and should be cooled in a way that provides ventilation, such as in a shallow pan so air can circulate around the food. You also make sure your meat doesn’t drip and contaminate other food. Cut vegetables should never be left out at room temperature, but instead properly stored away. Never store food on the floor either and have a thermometer in the refrigerator, not just the freezer.
Clean and sanitize preparation surfaces and equipment regularly
Your commercial kitchen staff needs a proper workstation and equipment to do their job satisfactorily. Use hot soapy water or a small amount of commercial bleach or cleaner on cutting boards, dishes, countertops and more. Ask your local health department what they require when it comes to food prep and sanitation. Don’t neglect your commercial restaurant equipment either, and be sure you clean it properly as advised by the manufacturer.
Label food well by date
You need to know what ingredients you have on hand, and also when they arrived, so you make sure nothing turns bad and is unusable. Remember FIFO, or First In, First Out. Don’t be afraid to throw out old food that you shouldn’t use. If you’re questioning whether you should serve something, it’s better to throw it out then risk a customer getting sick, because then you might get a visit from the health department.
Train your staff
A knowledgeable kitchen staff is a good kitchen staff. You need to offer proper training techniques to your staff, so they’re aware of food safety. If you don’t train your staff, they may take shortcuts or forget things, increasing the risk of your customers getting sick. Each new kitchen staff member should be shown the proper way to do something, and should also be given guidelines on what notto do.
If in doubt about any of the tips I’ve shared, you should check with your local health department. Having a good idea of what’s expected will go a long way towards ensuring your customers enjoy their meal, and come back. In doubt on what’s proper for your kitchen? You can visit the CDC website for recommendations, statistics and more. You should also visit FoodSafety.gov to keep up with any food recalls, cooking tips, and other important information.