As you look for ways to protect your food supply before it reaches you and while it’s sitting on your shelf, talk to your suppliers about high-pressure processing (HPP). The method uses cold water and extreme pressure to disable foodborne pathogens and microorganisms that spoil food. HPP is on the rise around the world as a means of protecting food safety, extending shelf life, ensuring clean labels and reducing waste, Food Safety Tech reports. It also protects the flavor and nutrient content of foods. It is used most often to preserve proteins, as well as juices, dips, coffee, tea and broth. The market for HPP is expected to grow rapidly in the coming years in response to growing consumer and foodservice industry demand.
When it comes to preventing bacteria growth in your kitchen, make sure your team understands that drying your dishes is as important as cleaning them. Drying with a towel can spread bacteria, and nesting dishes, bowls, pans or other items together while they are still damp can be a recipe for bacteria growth too, even when the dishes have been washed at high temperatures. Your best defense is having a dish rack that allows for proper airflow between dishes and allowing dishes to dry completely before storing them.
Want to protect the safety of your food (and employees) this flu season? Consider sponsoring flu vaccination for your employees. While some operators question the investment, research indicates that it pays off in the long run, costing relatively little per employee as compared to the potential costs of staffing shortages and business interruption in the wake of an outbreak. According to 2010 research published by the National Institutes of Health, “Employers who subsidize workplace vaccination programs stand to see significant a significant return on their investment, particularly during a severe influenza season or pandemic when employee productivity may be interrupted by influenza-related absenteeism.”
As the weather cools and pests seek shelter indoors, take steps now to make sure you aren’t an appealing target. The FSMA’s new regulations make it critical to be proactive about preventing contamination from pests as opposed to simply reacting to it after it occurs. Food Safety Tech advises you inspect all incoming shipments for insects, droppings or damaged packaging that could indicate a pest issue. If you spot a pest, remove the contaminated item or isolate it in a contained area to minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination. Maintain a log to track pest sightings and make it everyone’s responsibility to report pest activity if they see it. Finally, try to detect pests when you’re not around by placing insect light traps, pheromone monitors and glue boards in areas where you are receiving shipments.
No symptoms of illness? You could still be carrying pathogens in your body even if you feel perfectly well, Statefoodsafety.com advises. As flu season approaches, remind your team to wash their hands thoroughly and often. To prevent cross-contamination, your handwashing sinks should be clean, easily accessible to your food workers and not used for other kitchen tasks, such as washing dishes or food items.
As the season of colds and flu approaches, remind your staff of the importance of washing hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds at regular intervals. It’s the best way to remove the kinds of pathogens foodservice workers carry on their hands. Make it regular soap, since antibacterial soap needs additional scrub time to kill bacteria and doesn’t affect viruses and other pathogens, according to Statefoodsafety.com. Antibacterial hand sanitizers are helpful once employees have washed their hands with soap and water, but they are less effective when they come into contact with water, proteins, feces and blood and they will not kill norovirus, which is the top cause of foodborne illness outbreaks.
To embrace consumers’ interest in dining whenever and wherever they wish, you may package certain menu items for sale to customers looking for convenient take-away foods. Just make sure that your labels use clear language, bold lettering or even stickers that stand out on the packaging to identify major allergens. Use the common name of the allergen on any packaging to avoid miscommunication. As research from the University of Nebraska’s Food Allergy Research and Resource Program notes, be aware that certain spices, flavors and colors might not have a purpose in the prepared food item (and could inadvertently be omitted on a label) but could still cause reactions in consumers with pronounced food sensitivities.
You may already use color-coded utensils and equipment when managing the specific food sensitivities of guests. A report in Food Safety Tech also recommends color coding as a strategy to protect the overall food safety of an operation. The chef who authored the report said he uses a system that uses seven colors to identify various preparation tools and food storage containers throughout his kitchen. He suggests removing ingredients from their original boxes and storing them in their assigned color-coded, airtight containers to help avoid cross-contamination — and ensuring there are ample pieces of each color in order to avoid having to swap colors for different uses. His verdict: the system is simple for staff to use and saves time, making it easier for his operation to comply with food safety standards.
When a guest with an allergy dines with you, how well does your team — from your waitstaff to your line cooks — know how to respond? If your cooks aren’t fully up-to-date on what items on your menu contain traces of gluten, for example, your waitstaff can’t adequately protect a guest with celiac disease from an allergic reaction. Statefoodsafety.com suggests developing a separate menu to offer guests with sensitivities so they don’t have to scan the regular menu and weed out all of the items they can’t have. Also make sure you have a reliable system in place for waitstaff and cooks to communicate about allergies — using codes that refer to different sensitivities can help make sure important messages aren’t lost in translation.