Top Things You Can Do to Enhance Your Food Safety Culture
By: Ruth L. Petran PhD
Vice President, Food Safety & Public Health
As a restaurant owner or manager, you’ve taken steps to train and encourage employees to practice the best procedures to ensure your restaurant is storing, preparing and serving food that is high quality and safe. Yet it is important to remain vigilant and continually enhance your culture of food safety.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), THE TOP CONTRIBUTING FACTORS to foodborne illness include:
- Improper holding
- Poor personal hygiene
- Contaminated equipment/environment
- Inadequate cooking
- Unsafe source
As you work toward making food safety practices simple and part of your culture, consider implementing some of these BEST PRACTICES:
Make hand washing convenient
Proper hand washing can be one of the best preventive measures you institute at your restaurant. Making hand washing easy for employees and incorporating it into the flow of food preparation can help you ensure that everyone has proper hand hygiene top of mind.
Ensure proper cooler temperature control
Regularly verifying your cooler’s internal temperature is critical. Setting your refrigerator to the proper temperature — the refrigerator should be at 40 °F or below and the freezer at 0 °F or below — is a first step.
Also important: Set up a system to monitor refrigerator temperatures on a regular basis, typically once per shift to ensure that coolers are working properly. Then, as employees check the temperature, ask them to complete a chart, kept near the refrigerator, indicating date, time and temperature reading. Take corrective actions if proper temperatures are not achieved.
Cook until done
Among the factors responsible for outbreaks of foodborne illness, inadequate cooking stands near the top of the list. Fortunately, it is a practice that can easily be corrected.
Properly using a thermometer is a sure way to assess whether food has been heated to a high enough internal temperature to kill illness-inducing contaminants.
Know your vendors and suppliers
There are times when a potential contamination originates upstream.
That is why it is important to know:
- Your vendors and suppliers
- What type of food safety practices are in place
- That their practices are up to code
Develop a strong collaborative relationship with suppliers so that you are both working towards your food safety goals.
Clean, clean, clean… and sanitize
Your strongest defense for food safety is a good offense, which means instituting regular cleaning with proper products for the surface and food soil.
- After cleaning food contact surfaces use an EPA-registered hard surface food contact surface sanitizer.
- Be sure to clean high-touch surfaces and items such as door handles, menus and chairs or booths.
- Also, be mindful of non-food contact surfaces such as floors and drains that can also harbor dangerous microorganisms and increase the risk of cross-contamination and foodborne illness.
- Most importantly, read and follow product labels and ask the advice of your local, state, and federal regulatory agents. They can help you implement best practices and mitigate risks that can help you avoid foodborne illness incident.
When it comes to ensuring that the food you serve is safe, don’t underestimate the importance of maintaining your entire kitchen.
A strategic partnership with vendors like Ecolab can assist in identifying the right products, tools, processes and on-site training to ensure a properly implemented and executed food safety program.
Taking this integrated approach and committing to staff training will help you continue to develop your culture of food safety and keep your guests coming back.