Food safety is incredibly important for any kitchen that prepares or serves food. Unfortunately, hundreds of establishments with serious violations are lacking in their food safety practices and this can make their guests sick.
This is problematic because one food safety complaint can quickly get an establishment shut down. It’s never worth the risk, so proper food handling should be a priority.
In particular, a few concepts are often overlooked. Many restaurants are good at taking care of most requirements, but it’s the matters that get neglected that cause issues.
We’ll take a look at the most frequently overlooked food safety practices below so that you can commit to focusing on them in your kitchen!
The first one may seem obvious, but it still gets ignored. Adequate handwashing is one thing that many workers overlook.
There are a few scenarios that this applies to. This can mean after using the bathroom, after handling raw meat, or when touching other things in between food handling.
It may seem like a no-brainer to wash your hands after using the restroom, but it doesn’t always happen. Think about your bathroom habits – do you always wash your hands after emptying your bladder?
Sometimes you don’t or you forget and this is no different for a restaurant worker. The difference here is that there are often signs posted in a bathroom reminding workers to wash their hands. It’s still possible to neglect this if they’re in a rush to get back to work.
Another rule is washing hands after touching any type of raw meat. This is because raw meat has dangerous bacteria that can get transferred to already-cooked food. It isn’t necessarily a problem on the meat because proper cooking will kill any bacteria, but transferring this to food that won’t get cooked is dangerous.
Then there’s the possibility of touching dirty equipment in between food handling. Imagine that you’re prepping something, but then you’re interrupted by the phone and need to answer it.
Can you confidently say that you’ll remember to wash your hands after using the phone? Chances are, you might forget and this can cause a food safety hazard.
Cutting Board Sanitization
Closely related to handwashing is cutting board sanitization. There are a few issues regarding the use of cutting boards.
For starters, cutting raw meat on a cutting board will require a thorough washing. This is to avoid cross-contamination and prevent bacteria from spreading as mentioned above.
Additionally, you need to make sure you’re using cutting boards that are in good condition. Plastic cutting boards can be useful, but if they are scuffed and have too many scratches, then bacteria can harbor inside the cutting board and cause problems even after washing it.
Finally, it can be tempting to ignore washing a cutting board because you don’t have any clean ones available. For the sake of convenience, you may continue to use the same board.
None of these situations are okay and cutting board sanitization must be completed! Throw out any old boards, wash after cutting meat, and keep extras available so that a clean one can always be used.
Precise Cooking Temperature
Another issue involves cooking temperature, specifically meat.
Any type of meat must reach a specific temperature to ensure that it is safe to eat. Some meats require an internal temperature of 145F, while others must reach 165F.
Regardless of the exact requirement, it must always be met. This can be verified by sticking a meat thermometer into the center of the meat. It should not be taken off of the heat unless the correct temperature is reached!
Some kitchens miss this mark due to not using a thermometer. They may just use a visual inspection or estimate by time passed to determine when meat is ready. This is unsafe and can create dangerous food that is being served to customers.
Proper Cooling Procedure
One last consideration is following proper cooling procedures.
All food must be appropriately cooled if being stored for later use. It cannot just sit out for hours and then be haphazardly thrown into the fridge.
If not being immediately used, food must be transferred to a shallow cooling pan. It will then sit there until it cools to 135-140ºF, at which point it must promptly get placed in the fridge.
Temperatures under 135ºF make up the danger zone, in which bacteria can grow and make food unsafe. The amount of time food spends in this zone must be minimized, which is possible with proper cooling techniques.
Food safety should be a priority for any establishment that handles food. You are obligated to prevent your customers from getting ill by keeping your food safe to eat.
Sometimes this gets overlooked and this is when a foodborne illness can occur. To avoid this, you should freshen up on your kitchen’s food safety practices.
A few areas to focus on are adequate hand washing, cutting board sanitization, precise cooking temperature, and proper cooling procedure. These areas are often neglected and make an easy way to create dangerous food.
Food safety may seem like a hassle, but it’s much better than making a customer ill! Make a point of remembering the importance of food safety and you won’t have any issues!
Want some more tips for your food business? Check out our post about restaurant maintenance.