Get a Handle on All Things Food Handling
What is Food Handling?
Some of the best ways to assist in preventing food poisoning lie primarily in proper food handling. The spread of foodborne illness can not only wreak havoc on a restaurant's reputation but also on its ability to turn a profit, protect public health, and increase customer visits. It is for this reason that food safety rules are paramount for all operations within a restaurant.
Fortunately, with strict safety and quality protocols and attention to detail, you can be ahead of your game and ultimately, drive your food business towards success.
The term food handling engulfs all aspects of processes involved in the creation of food, its preparation, transport, packaging, storage, service, and delivery. Maintaining the utmost safety in all these aspects builds a well-run commercial kitchen.
It sometimes becomes so chaotic in the kitchen that monitoring the proper execution of each step is difficult. However, it is very important to run things smoothly from creation to delivery. The major step towards ensuring food safety is to keep track of your employees' activities and also, their health conditions.
A healthy work environment draws better results and helps retain the restaurant's confidence. By maintaining a healthy work environment, you develop a clear standard for employees to follow. This correlates not only to an elevated level of care for the safety and quality procedures set in place but also for how a restaurant is viewed by its patrons.
One of the most important features of appropriate food handling is to make sure that the food is cooked properly and stored at the right temperatures. Knowing your ingredients' safe minimum temperature zones is the key to prevent foodborne illness.
Food safety and hygiene go hand in hand. To ensure safe handling, it is imperative to consistently follow the routine practices of personal hygiene such as washing hands and wearing gloves. Such small measures can contribute to positive impacts on public health and consumer visits which assist in overall growth as well as reputation.
History of Food Handling
In the early 20th century, a renowned writer named Upton Sinclair published a book in which he shed light on the unhygienic working conditions of a meatpacking house in Chicago. This publication caused a ripple in the food industry leading the federal government to develop a new view of meat inspection which eventually followed with the passing of new legislation.
Over the next few years, various safety and quality initiatives were passed by Congress such as the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, and the Egg Products Inspection Act.
Much later in January 1997, the inspection procedures advanced from the sight, smell, and touch method to a more scientific approach. This was when Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) was applied.
As technology and science continued to progress, so with it came improvements to food inspection methods and procedures for protecting the public health. For example, new strategies were introduced like the testing of ready-to-eat meat and poultry products for bacteria (Listeria monocytogenes).
This lead to the implementation of stricter safety and quality policies to check bacterial infections (Salmonella) and the setting of new performance standards to battle any infectious organisms like Campylobacter in poultry products.
This improved system is critical as new food businesses tend to be more watchful of the ingredients they use and the way they carry out their food processing. Overall creating a more hygienic food industry with increased opportunity to prevent foodborne illness, these well-timed steps continually steer efforts towards greater protection of people's health.
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The Importance of Food Handling
Focusing on food handling can literally save lives. We know it is impossible to get rid of micro-organisms altogether, but safe food handling can make a massive difference in minimizing the spread of infectious diseases which can impact public health.
It goes without saying that prevention is better reaction. Foodborne illnesses cost a lot more than you think. Taking precautionary measures towards food protection is every business owner's responsibility to prevent themselves and others from spending millions dealing with a case of food poisoning.
No matter where you are in the basic farm-to-table chain, you are essentially accountable for acquiring best practices for safe creation, processing, and delivery of food. These practices strengthen your bond with customers and elevate your position within a community.
The effect of of even simple steps in safe food handling is undeniable. Prevention from diseases can easily be achieved by just washing your hands before touching perishable foods like meat and poultry. So a trivial act can draw positive results for your customers' health as well as happiness.
Avoid taking any risks to save your time. Defrosting your meat and poultry products at room temperatures and fractional cooking might seem feasible to try, but that can be the source of efficient bacterial growth which can lead to the creation of several toxins.
Hence, safe food handling is the most effective way to preserve the food's nutritional benefits and maintain its quality for a fine dining experience.
Consequences of Improper Food Handling
Proper monitoring of food processing is the top priority in any food business and rightfully so. Carelessness in this regard can lead to health hazards caused by excessive bacterial growth and cross contamination.
Improper handling can lead to severe food poisoning. This can result from cooking the food at wrong temperatures, defrosting your food for too long, serving the food at improper serving temperatures or handling food with unwashed hands, and so on.
Therefore, you need to ensure that the food is stored at appropriate temperatures, cooked sufficiently, and consumed well before its expiration date in order to uphold the highest of health standards.
The Top Causes of Foodborne Illnesses
In order to eradicate foodborne diseases, it is very important to understand what causes them. Some of the major causes of these illnesses are-
- Food allergies
- Improper food handling
Moreover, improper sanitation could also be a reason for parasitic development on food. That can then grow exponentially through improper preparation. Therefore, when food is served without additional cooking (for example salads), it can cause severe illness.
If we overview the major causes of foodborne illnesses, the following make the top of the list-
- Lack of preparation
- Improper cooking
- Infected person(s)
- Improper hot holding
- Inadequate reheating for hot holding
- Unsafe sources
- Contaminated raw ingredients or food
- Use of leftovers passed reasonable dates
- Insufficient cooking
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The Basics of Food Handling
For starters, there are 4 simple steps that should be considered in any food business-
- Clean- Always wash your hands and keep your utensils clean and sterilized. Wipe off your countertops after working and launder your kitchen towels regularly. Moreover, rinse your fruits and vegetables before using them. These practices will eliminate cross-contamination and let your employees approach the food with clean hands, hence resulting in an efficient food handling process.
- Separate- Keep your raw and cooked ingredients separate in your grocery cart, shopping bags, and refrigerator. Use distinct utensils for both categories. The marinades for raw meat or other raw foods should not be reused unless thoroughly boiled first.
- Cook- The key is to cook at the appropriate temperature. Food color and texture are not reliable sources of determining the correct heat level. You need to use a food thermometer to ensure the safety of poultry, raw meat, seafood, and eggs for cooking. These ingredients need to be cooked to their respective appropriate temperatures to eliminate any bacteria.
- Chill- Refrigerate foods with precision. Keep the temperature in check with the help of a food thermometer. Refrigerate your poultry, raw meat, eggs, seafood, and other perishable foods within 2 hours of purchasing or cooking.
Best Practices for Food Handlers
Your employees are your greatest asset, which is why you need to keep track of their health conditions. Don't let your sick workers (servers, cooks, bartenders, managers, bussers, cashiers, dishwashers) prepare food and let them have a day off until fully recovered. Don't let them cough or sneeze over the food, countertops or in food storage areas.
Encourage your workers to wash their hands thoroughly and frequently during work. Ask them to use clean towels and keep their hands dried at all times. Forbid smoking, spitting, and chewing gum in areas of food handling.
Moreover, promote healthy habits of maintaining personal hygiene. Wear clean clothes and aprons, and cover or tie back your hair to avoid any unwelcome consequences. Other than that, keep your nails trimmed properly and avoid wearing nail polish while at work as it can chip off into your food.
It is advised to not wear jewelry while dealing with food and do not work with open wounds. All cuts should be kept completely covered with a bandage, wound strip or a disposable glove.
Taking small steps can make a huge difference in bringing your food business to the upper rungs of the success ladder.
In short, here are a few basic points to remember-
- Food handling means all processes regarding food creation, preparation, transport, packaging, storage, service, and delivery. Ensuring safety in all these aspects should be the top priority for any food business.
- Dealing with food items requires your utmost attention at each step from creation to delivery. It helps in the effective prevention of foodborne illnesses and protects your customers, ultimately strengthening your relationship with them and placing your business in a positive light.
- The major causes of foodborne illnesses are lack of preparation, improper cooking, an infected person(s), improper hot holding, inadequate reheating for hot holding, unsafe sources, contaminated raw ingredients or food, cross-contamination, use of leftovers past a reasonable date, and insufficient cooking.
- Food poisoning can cause nausea and vomiting, and in a few cases, lead up to fatal conditions like brain damage and seizures. So it is important to store the food at appropriate temperatures, cook sufficiently, and consume well before its expiration date to maintain health standards.
- The basic tips to follow for a successful food business are to clean, separate, cook, and chill your food. Clean your hands and surroundings. Keep raw and cooked food products separated. Cook to the food's appropriate temperatures, and chill the products with precision.
- The best practices for food handlers include washing hands, wearing gloves, keeping the countertops and utensils cleaned, maintaining personal hygiene, and staying away from food items if sick.