Certain foods that have been served to guests can be served again to other guests – but those foods need to meet strict criteria. As Statefoodsafety.com reports, food in an unopened package that shows no signs of contamination can be served again. So, undisturbed packets of condiments, creamer, sweeteners and crackers are all fair game. The same cannot be said of the bread basket that returns to the kitchen untouched.
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.
At a time when the foodservice industry is embracing foods that promote health and well-being, those qualities don’t often come to mind when one thinks of the foodservice profession itself. But finding ways to protect your well-being and that of your staff can protect morale and promote retention. Beyond creating healthy routines around meals, sleep and exercise, Chefify suggests establishing boundaries – with your employer and staff. It can help you handle everything from negotiating sufficient time off between shifts to managing everyday problems more efficiently (and being selective about the ones you take on). Take stock of your day with staff to review what went well and what needs improvement. Establish clear working hours for yourself and your team. Don’t oversell your knowledge and experience – or be afraid to delegate tasks to others: Relying on other people helps make them accountable. Finally, don’t lose your connection with the outside world – keeping tabs on events happening outside of the foodservice industry can provide perspective and may help you conceive of new ideas that will keep your work interesting and fresh.
This summer, the Arkansas Department of Health advised people who had eaten at a specific McDonald’s to get vaccinated for Hepatitis A. This followed news that a McDonald’s employee had tested positive for the virus, which has infected nearly 400 people in Arkansas since early last year, Delish reports. When these events occur, expect the food safety landscape to shift – and put restaurant operators on the defensive. As of this writing, Detroit’s Public Health and Safety Committee was in the process of proposing an ordinance to require restaurants to use color-coded signs (as opposed to letter grades) to clarify their standing with the city’s health department, Food Safety News reports. A Hepatitis A outbreak in Detroit motivated the action, which is intended to both push operators to improve results and provide greater transparency to the public about a restaurant’s food safety record. The model for the color-coded system is Columbus, Ohio, which has a four-tiered system to classify a restaurant’s standing with the health department: Green, yellow, white and red signs announce whether a restaurant has passed inspection and meets the city’s standard, is closed based on the order of local health department officials, or falls somewhere in between.
You stick to strict cleaning procedures and take steps to avoid the cross-contamination of foods, but how much do you know about the quality of the air in your facility? You may have excess dust accumulating in the air that can contaminate food, or moisture from ovens that can generate condensation and lead to mold. Further, the simple act of cooking can make indoor air as dangerous to breathe as smog, according to new research from HomeChem. Asthma or other respiratory ailments on your kitchen team can signal you have a problem, but you can improve air quality going forward by maintaining appliances and ventilation units routinely, having your air tested for chemical or biological pollutants, replacing old cookware with models that are less likely to contaminate the air, and using natural building materials and decorative elements in your restaurant.
Restaurant work can be physically and emotionally grueling — but operators can take steps to make the environment a healthier one for staff. We Are Chefs offered some suggestions to set a positive tone. First, take charge of hydration: Have a water-drinking competition and award a point for each day a person reaches a set level, and replace energy drinks with body-friendly options like Emergen-C over iced soda water. Offer healthier options on your staff menu. Now that the weather is improving in many places, get staff outside, whether for just a quick stretch, to clean racks or to cook specials on a smoker. Challenge your team to walk or bike to work. Finally, keep your music and conversation upbeat and positive.