Have you ever come across someone who blames the last meal from a restaurant for a sudden upset stomach?
The chances are that he/she could be suffering from a mild - or severe - case of foodborne illness, resulting in food poising.
A small glitch from the end of the restaurant staff will leave you fuming and you will end up spending hundreds of dollars on medical bills. The importance of maintaining food safety standards in a restaurant is paramount and cannot be overlooked.
Customers want to dine in a hygienic eatery that serves food free from Salmonella, Toxoplasma, and other foodborne illness-causing pathogens.
If consumers think that a restaurant doesn’t adhere to the food safety guidelines, they will easily avoid that restaurant like the plague. And for those who have already fallen ill from dining in at such a restaurant, will be quick to jump to popular review platforms to warn others of his/her bad experience.
Usually, feedback related to the lack of hygiene is the worst sort of publicity a restaurant can attract.
This is why it’s imperative to follow the proper food safety guidelines, which will help in acquiring a food service license, which is required to serve food to consumers.
Here is a checklist of maintaining the food safety standards in the restaurant.
No matter how many times we wash our hands, they’re never 100% sterile.
Germs linger and remain present on our hands, and bare hand contact with food is one of the most significant contributors of transmitting foodborne illness. Employees can quickly shed these pathogens on the food even without realizing it.
A food preparer or server should wear gloves when touching any food items. Gloves are worn to protect the food from the harmful germs present on our hands.
Furthermore, one of the FDA’s (Food and Drug Administration) food safety guidelines states the use of gloves when touching RTE (ready to eat) products like burgers, sandwiches, or salads with bare hands.
Just like hands, gloves can get dirty after prolonged usage, and it’s advisable to change them frequently to avoid contamination of the food. As a measure of safety, restaurants should encourage the staff members to change gloves every time they encounter the following scenarios
- Interrupted while cooking the food
- Every four hours
- Touching garbage bins
- Touching contaminated food or surfaces
Just as gloves are disposable, so are certain kitchen items like cleaning wipes, towels, sponges, paper cups, paper plates, and rags.
These tools should be changed every few days, as they become a breeding ground for harmful pathogens. For example, if the rags are not washed daily, they will make clean surfaces dirty.
Likewise, changing the kitchen sponges every few days to keep the area sanitized is very important and often overlooked.
Moreover, single-use disposable items such as paper towels, straws, cleaning cloths, and disposable cups should not be reused again.
By using these food safety guidelines, a restaurant can ensure a hygienic cooking environment, thereby resulting in healthy and pathogen-free food.
From a public health and food safety perspective, the advice for sick employees is to stay home.
Chefs, food handlers, waiters, bartenders, and even cashiers working through their illness can pass on the contagious infection to the customers.
When a food handler works while suffering from diarrhea or vomiting, the restaurant breaches the food safety guidelines. And, the situation becomes worrisome for the guests because they will think twice before stepping a foot in the eatery.
Therefore, a food handler should never be allowed to touch the food while suffering from the following ailments.
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Fever or sore throats, even mild ones
- Open wounds or wounds that cannot be covered
- Runny nose, sneezing, coughing or wheezing
- Infection that is spread through food, like salmonella, shigella, hepatitis A or E.Coli
- Any flu that is communicable and can spread through contaminated surfaces.
This isn’t a policy that restaurants can overlook because it’s a food safety guideline set by the National Restaurant Association.
The right kind of policy helps in infusing a culture of good hygiene among the employees and helps in reducing outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.
Irrespective of the work environment, employees tend to break the rules and sometimes overlook the guidelines. Restaurant employees are no different.
Disposables may not get changed after a single-use, cleaning wipes may not get changed frequently, expired spices may get mixed with the new ones, and hair may occasionally be served to the guests.
These incidents are unacceptable because it compromises the health of the customers. The need of the hour is to train employees about proper food safety standards and the potential consequence of breaching them.
Reinforcing proper guidelines reduces the instances of contamination and provides a hygienic environment to the customer. Here are some recommendations.
- Hair should be pulled back and tied neatly. The kitchen staff should wear hair nets to avoid hair from falling in the food.
- Fingernails of all food handlers should be small because long nails are a storehouse for germs and bacteria.
- Jewelry should not be allowed to the food handlers because it works as a perfect carrier for illness-causing bacteria.