At a time when supply chain strains make it difficult to know if or when a key ingredient will arrive, there is even more reason for restaurant operators to turn to local suppliers for menu items. Just make sure to screen these suppliers for strong food safety practices, particularly if they are small or new businesses. Every supplier should be able to demonstrate its adherence to best food safety practices, including its protocols for preventing cross-contamination. Make sure you’re comfortable with their transparency and ability to trace a food item from its source to its delivery to you. Take care with deliveries and inspect every shipment for proper color, temperature and freshness.
In a year of many extremes, extreme weather has become way of life for many parts of the U.S. this summer. From droughts to fires to floods, these events have a ripple effect on the food supply. Food Safety Magazine reports that rising temperatures alone may increase infections by food- and waterborne pathogens, push plant pests into new areas and potentially result in greater use of pesticides, increase the uptake of toxic metals in staple crops, make plants more susceptible to fungal infections, and expand the presence of algal blooms that threaten seafood safety. All told, the current situation requires foodservice operators to have a reliable means of monitoring new potential hazards and adapting the menu accordingly.
In the past year, the need for supporting the local community has become more important than ever to businesses and consumers alike. If you visit your neighborhood farmer’s market in an effort to find fresh foods that elevate the quality and taste of your menu – or even to add some compelling video content to your social media accounts – just take some extra precautions to protect the safety of the items you buy. Local markets are often not subject to the same stringent food safety regulations and inspections that govern larger commercial food suppliers. Knowing your farmer always helps, but Culinary Epicenter advises you take such steps as bringing an insulated bag or cooler to the market to protect and separate items that need to stay cool, inquiring about the preparation and storage of any pre-cut items, avoiding the purchase of items like milk, juice and cider unless pasteurization can be confirmed, taking care to avoid the cross-contamination of foods, and upon your return, thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water before washing all produce.
COVID-19 has made food traceability, transparency and protection all the more important – and difficult, particularly as meat facility workers have fallen ill in recent weeks and social distancing rules have limited in-person audits and inspections. So what can operators do to ensure their food supply is as safe as possible? Take this time to urge transparency from your vendors and understand what systems they are using to trace food through the supply chain. Uncertainty in the global food supply chain is also likely going to drive food businesses to think even more locally. Is there an opportunity right now for you to source more ingredients locally – or adjust your menu so you can?