Safe Food Handling Procedures for Your Business
The Value of Food Handling
Safe food handling procedures are an essential component of food safety compliance. All food industry professionals must maintain and enforce proper food handling techniques in order to produce foods that are safe for consumption.
The consequences of failing to safely handle food range from potentially deadly foodborne illness proliferation to a poor business reputation.
The United State's food supply is considered one of the safest in the world. However, the CDC estimates that each year roughly 48 million people, or roughly 1 in 6 Americans, get sick as a result of foodborne diseases.
Among those infected, 128,000 are hospitalized and 3,000 will die. These hospitalizations and fatalities are exceptionally tragic because they largely could have been prevented with safe food handling procedures.
Tips to Ensure Food Safety
The following 9 safe food handling rules are crucial to safe food handling-
1. The Clean Hand Rule
- Handwashing is the most effective way to prevent foodborne illness. Washing hands should never take less than 20 seconds and should always involve hot soapy water, antibacterial soap, and thorough hand drying. Wash and sanitize hands thoroughly in a hand-washing facility before starting work, after each absence from the work area, after visiting the restrooms, sneezing, coughing, after eating, drinking, smoking, chewing gum, chewing tobacco, and any other times when hands are potentially soiled or contaminated.
- Essential to avoiding cross-contamination, cleanliness is a major component of food safety. Cleanliness cannot stop at handwashing, everything must be clean at all times. Below are a few guidelines to follow to keep surfaces clean-
- Promptly clear leftovers, ensuring dirty dishes and food residue never comes into contact with RTE (ready to eat) foods
- Consistently wipe down all surfaces, paying special attention to food residue or pooling liquids
- Do dishes often in order to ensure all cooking and serving utensils are clean and sanitized
- Break down and clean equipment ranging from ovens to flat tops nightly. Additionally, replace and empty prep pans nightly
- Clear prep areas, paying extra attention to ensuring everything is correctly sealed and residue-free
- Monitoring temperature is non-negotiable to ensuring food safety, and cooking is no exception to this rule. Familiarize yourself with minimum temperature requirements for common products
- Strictly abide by the 2-hour rule that states perishable or prepared foods should never be left out for more than 2 hours at room temperature. If food is out any longer than 2 hours, it enters the danger zone. If you suspect food has been out longer than two hours, discard it immediately. It is always better to be proactive then cause a potentially deadly food outbreak
- Cooked food and raw food should never be stored in close proximity. Bacteria from raw foods can easily contaminate cooked food. Without proper food handling procedures, bacteria proliferate quickly. Ideally, various food groups would have separate storage units, but this is not possible in many kitchens. If your business is not able to accommodate separate storage units, employ a food hierarchy to the best of your ability to avoid cross-contamination
- Top shelves- RTE foods that have been cut or prepared and will not be cooked. Always tightly cover or seal items to prevent contamination
- Middle shelves- Below RTE foods, place fruits and vegetables that have not been cut or prepared
- Bottom shelves- Raw meats, poultry, and fish. If cross-contamination occurs, these foods possess the highest amount of bacteria and are therefore most likely to cause harm.
- Shellfish Exception- Due to the severity of allergic reactions, store shellfish separately from all other products
- Whenever possible and in accordance with state law, wear gloves. Remember, gloves are not designed to protect hands from food. They are designed to protect food from hands. Disposable gloves may save spent on handwashing and ensure all food preparation is up to code. Gloves can still pick up germs, so they must be changed regularly and consistently with food safety protocol
- Items like rags, towels, and sponges can provide a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Limit paper products to only one use, replace sponges every few days and wash rags daily
- All food industry employees, ranging from cooks to cashiers, should never be in contact with food while carrying any known contagious disease that may result in the spread of foodborne illness. Some circumstances where food service workers should not be in contact with food or surfaces and utensils that will make contact with food include possession of-
- Symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sneezing, congestion, coughing or a runny nose
- Confirmed diagnosis of food-transmittable infections like E. coli, the flu, or Salmonella
- Infected wounds that cannot be covered
- Occasional human error is inevitable, but food industry professionals should always do their best to avoid reckless or negligent employee behavior. Likewise, it is equally important to positively reinforce employees who utilize safe food handling procedures.