Has your restaurant ever faced a food safety spillover? According to new research, when a competitor or a nearby restaurant experiences a food safety outbreak, consumers tend to make assumptions about the safety of your supply as a result. The research, published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management, found that a theoretical E. Coli crisis at one restaurant made people hesitate to eat at other restaurants serving similar foods even though they were not involved in the outbreak. It’s all the more reason to enforce a top-down food safety culture within your restaurant – and communicate promptly with staff about outbreaks connected to the types of food you serve. It will not only help protect the safety of the items on your menu, but it will also build your team’s ability to communicate more confidently about it with guests if and when outbreaks occur.
What portion of your guests are seniors? Adults over the age of 60 are more likely than younger adults to be hospitalized or to experience complications due to foodborne illness. They tend to struggle to fight off pathogens such as E. coli, Listeria and Salmonella. Keep this in mind when selecting suppliers and planning your menu – particularly your delivery menu as your food faces greater security risk and has more opportunity to enter the temperature danger zone. Make your staff aware of the need to take special precautions with foods such as raw meat, fish and dairy, which are more susceptible to contamination than other foods.
So much is said about how meats must be handled and stored to protect safety, but less so about vegetarian or vegan meat substitutes. Dr. Joseph Puglisi, a professor of structural biology at the Stanford University School of Medicine who also chairs a scientific advisory board for Beyond Meat, told Food Safety News that the risks of contamination and spoilage are much lower with meatless products overall. E. coli and other pathogens grow more slowly in plant-based meats than in conventional meats. However, there are still food safety risks to monitor. They tend to relate to any allergens present in the meat substitutes, along with chemical additives that aren’t fully understood.
In the wake of recent reports that the FDA and CDC knew of three E.coli outbreaks connected to romaine lettuce that infected nearly 300 people and killed six, a number of researchers in the food safety industry have gone on the offensive. The editor of Food Safety News, for one, declared that in articles it prints about the agencies in the coming weeks, it would attach warning language saying “both agencies have shown a reckless disregard for the public’s right to know, and their reliability going forward remains suspect.” Restaurant operators can decide for themselves how much trust to place in the agencies when it comes to their supply chains, but in the meantime, some are taking actions ranging from omitting menu items with poor track records on contamination to relying on product recall coverage to protect their business in the case of an outbreak.