In today’s fast-paced world, we often don’t stop to think that the meal we’re eating may be our last. It’s not a pleasant thought and it is easier to dismiss the notion as something that happens to other people in a far-off place. However, each year it is a reality for 5,200 Americans and their families. (Although we do not know the exact numbers in South Africa, there are published outbreaks which means we are not untouchable)
In part 2 of this article we are given practical tips for how to combat the problem of cross contamination in a food service or restaurant facility.
As large as the hazard of cross-contamination is, there are ways to combat the problem. First and foremost, proper training of all food handlers must take place. Employees need to understand what they can do to prevent the spread of pathogens. Teach employees how to wash their hands and how to effectively clean and sanitize food contact surfaces and utensils and explain why. Demonstrate how quickly germs can be spread in the kitchen by using products like GloGerm, which contain simulated germs that glow under UV light. Encourage employees to follow proper procedures, especially during busy times when they might be tempted to cut corners. Hang posters throughout the kitchen to remind employees of proper food safety practices.
Second, provide employees with tools that will help them to be successful in preventing cross-contamination. The use of color-coded equipment is an excellent way to implement what employees learn during training. Create zones in the kitchen for the different types of food prepared and assign a different color to each zone. For example, if one zone is for preparing produce, then only green cutting boards and knives should be found there. Assign other colors for each of the different types of raw meat – poultry, beef and seafood. Provide color-coded knife racks for keeping different colored knives separate during storage.
Color-coded cleaning equipment, such as cutting board brushes, will not only encourage employees to clean, but will limit the spread of microorganisms that could occur if a common brush is used to clean all equipment. In the same manner, provide color-coded serving utensils in service areas to limit the practice of using the same utensil to serve every food.
Lastly, organize storage areas, such as coolers, in a manner that will lessen the chance of foodborne illnesses even if foods drip on each other. Two methods can be employed here. To begin with, store foods in the proper food safety order on shelving. Foods that will receive minimal or no further preparation should be placed on the top shelf. This would include foods that are cooked, but waiting for service and ready-to eat foods such as produce. On the lower shelves, place your raw meats in an order where those that are cooked to lower internal temperatures are stored above those required to be cooked to higher temperatures to kill bacteria. For instance, raw seafood (cooked to 145ºF) should be stored above raw poultry (cooked to 165ºF). The other method is to use color-coded storage boxes. This allows employees to determine at a glance where to place foods in the cooler to ensure that the food safety order for storage is being followed.
It takes concerted effort to keep food safe, but the rewards of this effort are immense. The trust and repeat business of customers are earned and expensive lawsuits are avoided. Taking a proactive stance on food safety shields against the perils of a foodborne infection outbreak. Employees will be less likely to make the mistakes that commonly lead to foodborne illnesses if they are trained properly and given the tools they need. Follow the example of those restaurants that have learned the importance of safe food the hard way and make food safety a priority today.
About the Author:
Megan Bradley is a technical advisor and certified food safety professional for Daydots
This article was reproduced with permission from Food Quality & Safety