Whether you’re a bartender, server or chef, everyone who works in a food establishment needs to understand the importance of safe food handling. Food services is among the most heavily regulated industries in the nation, as improper food handling or preparation can lead to illness. Understanding the basics of food handling is great place to start, and makes it easier when going through detailed safety regulations. Keep on reading to learn some tips on food handling safety.
When we say it’s important to wash everything, we mean everything. Employees must wash their hands before starting or resuming work. Line and prep areas should be wiped down throughout every shift. Grills and other cooking equipment must be washed after every use. Washing water and cleaning towels should be switched out after every shift or when they become too dirty.
Before cooking delicious meals, all ingredients should be cleaned properly. Fresh produce, can be home to chemicals, dirt or living organisms that can be harmful if consumed. Fruits and vegetables need to be cleaned with cold water to prevent bacteria growth. To rid produce of all dirt, scrubbing with brushes is recommended. Of course, once you’re finished, you need to wash all surfaces and equipment you worked with.
For chefs and others involved with meal preparations, a general rule of thumb is to have as little direct contact with food as possible. Plastic gloves offer a layer of protection between workers and food. Gloves should be changed after every use, especially when handling raw food or deli items. Arm guards, face masks and hair nets are great for additional protection.
Avoiding direct contact with food is just as important during the actual cooking process. If staff members need to taste food, they need to use a clean utensil, ladle or other device to do so. Once an item is used to taste, it cannot be used again. Do not use an item that was already used to stir or mix food, even if it hadn’t been used for tasting. If a spoon falls into a pot, use a clean utensil to scoop it out. Keeping equipment specific to every dish helps protect their integrity and prevents other contamination risks, including exposure to ingredients that can trigger allergic reactions.
The “Danger Zone”
Throughout the day, your staff relies on refrigeration and heating equipment to properly store food. It’s important to check the temperatures of this equipment regularly (i.e. every couple hours) to ensure food doesn’t fall into the Danger Zone. According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), the Danger Zone is the temperature range that can cause rapid bacteria growth. Within this range, between 40 and 140 degrees fahrenheit, bacteria can double its population in only 20 minutes!
Do not leave food out at room temperature to thaw. You can move the food to a refrigerator, place it warm water or thaw it out as part of the cooking process. For cooked food that needs to sits out, such as those on buffet lines, internal temperatures must be checked.
Of course, we’ve only touched the surface on proper food handling. For more information. you can visit sites including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, FoodSafety.gov and the National Restaurant Association. Also be sure to check local, county and state health codes, as regulations can vary by location.
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