If it’s not already, food safety should be a top priority for restaurant operators.
“The impact of a foodborne illness or outbreak can be devastating, resulting in loss of revenue, lawsuits and legal issues, loss of reputation, employee turnover and lowered morale,” explains Timothy Meyers, CCC, CCE, coordinator and professor, culinology program, College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Ill.
Meyers, who teaches food safety management and sanitation, says, “With more states and counties requiring the posting of health inspection reports for public viewing, it’s imperative that restaurants have and maintain good food safety scores.”
Lack of and inappropriate hand washing is the No. 1 cause of foodborne illness. “Approximately 33 percent of restaurant employees do not wash their hands after using the bathroom or contaminating their hands,” says Meyers. “Not washing hands leads to cross contamination, which can easily spread bacteria throughout an operation.”
He recommends stressing the importance of food safety with employees at weekly staff meetings, by hanging food safety posters in the break room and by requiring each employee to earn state sanitation certification.
Areas that need to be brought to employees’ attention about ensuring food safety include:
- Washing hands after every bathroom visit and as often as needed.
- Managing the time and temperatures of food.
- Washing work surfaces, tools and utensils after every use.
- Cooking and holding food properly: hot food served hot and cold food served cold.
- Washing all produce thoroughly.
Finally, management needs to lead by example. “It’s important for employees to see managers following the correct procedures when handling food,” Meyers says.
Ready-to-eat (RTE) foods do not necessarily prevent foodborne illness, but they do help. RTE items are commercially prepared food that can be served hot or cold as ready-to-eat dishes; as room-temperature, shelf-stable products; or as refrigerated or frozen products that require minimal preparation and handling.
“If you have staff who follow all procedures, then yes, the chance of contamination can be reduced,” Meyers says, “But if people have bad habits and are cutting corners, for example, not changing gloves, then you’ll still have an increased chance of contamination. It truly depends on the type of RTE you’re serving and training of employees.”
Ongoing operator challenges
With viruses and bacteria becoming resistant, it’s important that operators do their absolute best in ensuring the public that food safety is the number one priority. Operators are faced, however, with the following ongoing challenges:
- Large employee populations with high rates of turnover, communication challenges, and cultural differences in how food is prepared.
- Non-uniform systems for training and certifying workers.
- Lack of sick leave policies for sick workers.
- Difficulties in tracing food items to their sources.
- Changes in production practices.
- Increasing imports.
However, operators are beginning to address these challenges. Chipotle, for example, after its recent food-safety issues, instituted a paid sick leave policy as part of its food safety protocol.
This post is sponsored by Minor’s®