Cold winter weather means pests are looking for shelter in warm places that offer food — like your kitchen. Even if you’re careful to clean appliances, counters and other food preparation surfaces, it can be easy to neglect the crevices underneath tabletop equipment like mixers or griddles. Statefoodsafety.com advises operators to either seal those items to the table or raise them four inches to allow for easy cleaning — and make them less appealing to pests looking for cover.
Restaurants, an employer of choice for many teenagers, can also be risky for these workers. That’s according to the latest annual report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health about teen worker safety. It reported that almost half of teen workers in Massachusetts who were injured on the job between 2011 and 2015 said they did not receive health and safety training from their employers. What’s more, the accommodation and foodservice industries were the top industries for work-related injuries. Restaurants, specifically, were the most common workplaces (at 22 percent) where these workers experienced concussions. What does your operation do to help ensure the health and safety of its workers?
You know the importance of handwashing. But as restaurants become increasingly reliant on tablets and other mobile devices to manage everything from inventory to delivery orders, an employee’s hands are only as clean as the device he is using. If your team uses technology (and related mobile devices and touch screens) to process orders and payments and manage other day-to-day operations, it’s critical to have a clear protocol for cleaning and handling those items. They’re not designed to be cleaned easily and they’re prime carriers of bacteria that could spread contamination.
The temperature of your ice machine is well within the safety zone but it’s still a source of contamination when not cleaned and managed carefully. In addition to the machine and the ice itself, pay attention to the area surrounding your machine to minimize risks. Food Safety Magazine advises operators to keep the doors to your ice storage machine closed except when they are in use. Remove any equipment or other items from the exterior of the machine. If you’re able to limit access to the machine, that can help too. Keep ice scoops in an uncovered stainless steel, plastic or fiberglass tray when not in use, and ensure they don’t come into contact with surfaces like door handles, service carts and non-food contact surfaces.
As a guest enters your restaurant, you likely want him to focus more on your list of specials than on his likelihood of contracting salmonella from your establishment. But the safety of your restaurant could well be on the minds of your guests, particularly as 33 percent of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. in 2016 were attributed to sit-down dining establishments (and that figure did not include additional illnesses linked to quick-service restaurants or catering and banquet facilities). If you have taken steps to strengthen your restaurant’s food safety practices — and your record reflects it — have you thought about promoting it? Foodable advises it as a good way to earn trust with the public and engage your employees. If you get a glowing inspection report, blow it up and post it — or announce your result on Instagram and thank your team for helping you to achieve it and for sharing your commitment to guest safety. Post photos of your team sweeping up or polishing glassware after an event. If you’re giving your restaurant a deep clean on a day when you’re normally not open and would be cleaning anyway, announce it. There’s no need to overdo it on the dirty details, obviously, but the occasional post about your commitment to running a clean operation can go a long way in building trust with your community (and ironically, making food safety less front-of-mind when hungry people pay you a visit).
A new study published in the journal Public Health reports that a restaurant’s costs resulting from a foodborne illness outbreak can range from $4,000 (for a single outbreak in which five people get sick) to nearly $2 million (for a single outbreak in which 250 people get sick and there are lawsuits, legal fees and fines). The best preparation, according to the research? Two actions have the biggest potential payoff: Invest in infection prevention and control measures, like the National Restaurant Association’s training program ($15 per employee for the online course), which focuses on food safety, cross-contamination, time and temperature, and cleaning and sanitation. Also, allow enough time for an employee to recover from an illness before returning to work — the cost of a week off of work, which the study indicates can range from $78 to $3,451 depending on the person’s wages and length of illness, are still small when compared to the potential cost of a foodborne illness outbreak.
You know the importance of cleaning and sanitizing food contact surfaces — especially when preparing different raw meats. But if you’re also aware of the cooking temperatures of various proteins, you can save some time on cooking and sanitizing by preparing items in an order that doesn’t require extra precaution. For example, as StateFoodSafety.com reports, it’s not required to clean and sanitize if you are switching to a food that has a higher cooking temperature — such as starting with ground beef, pork, veal or lamb (which is ready at 160˚F) and then moving on to turkey or chicken (which is done at 165˚F).