Monday, August 23, 2010

FOOD SMARTS: Food Safety Done Properly

Cross Contamination is defined as: “the transfer of microorganisms from one food or surface to another.”

There are many things we can do to avoid cross contamination in our restaurants. Some you can/should incorporate in your establishment are:

• Wash hands between different tasks and handling different foods. That includes putting on a clean pair of disposable gloves after washing hands properly. Never reuse the same gloves for a different job handling task.

• Clean and sanitize all work surfaces and utensils after each use.

• Prep your raw meats and ready to eat foods in different sections of the kitchen or at the least if you don’t have a big enough kitchen to do this, prep foods separately at different times.

• Purchase specific equipment for each type of food i.e. color coded cutting boards. For example, use a red cutting board for meats, yellow for poultry, and green for veggies and fruits. This way, you will always have peace of mind when cutting lettuce on a green cutting board that no chicken juice has ever touched the green cutting board because you have put physical barriers in place.

• Store food in your refrigeration units based upon their dangers in the following order from top to bottom: ready-to-eat-foods, seafood, whole cuts of beef and pork, ground meats and ground fish and whole or ground poultry.

• Don’t grab anything where the customer’s mouth will go, i.e. don’t grab glasses or cups ever by the rim and always grab silverware by the handles.

• Never re-serve any food other than that which is completely sealed in a package, i.e. ketchups, mustards, etc.

• Mandate that your staff wear clean uniforms.

• Insist your staff wear minimal jewelry and nothing other than a plain band as a ring on their hands or wrists.

Finally, investigate the possibility that purchasing pre-cooked or pre-made ingredients can not only save you money, but also can help minimize the opportunity for “cross contamination” to occur. Many restaurants make their own chicken salad. Many employers might pay their prep cooks for ex. $13 per hour to make their chicken salad from scratch which can take many labor hours if they follow these steps: Receive –> Storage –> Cook –> Cool –> Storage –> Prepare –> Storage.

Sometimes, to save money, you have to pay more up front. For example, the restaurant owner decides to pay an extra $1 per pound to buy pre-cooked and pre-chopped chicken to use for the chicken salad? Yes, she is paying extra at the beginning, but look at the labor hours that have been eliminated at $13 per hour. Paying that extra dollar per pound for the chicken in the long run can save an operator a lot of money.

I am in the “food safety business” not “how to save money business.” From a food safety aspect, the advantage of buying a pre-made ingredient is that you now eliminate many steps in the flow to make that chicken salad. Your new control points in handling the chicken are only: Receive –> Storage –> Prepare –> Storage. By minimizing the steps you handle the food – you’ve also eliminated opportunities where cross contamination can occur.

I always find “food safety” fascinating. Some people think it adds more work, but if you use your Food Smarts, you can actually make your job easier! ! !

Juliet Bodinetz-Rich is the executive director of Bilingual Hospitality Training Solutions and has over 25 years industry and training experience. Her team of instructors’ specialty is food safety, alcohol training and ServSafe training in English or in Spanish and writing HACCP Plans in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. Metro Area. www.bilingualhospitality. com, or 443-838-7561.