Tips for Proper Food Sanitation
What Food Sanitation Means to Businesses
Simply put, food sanitation is to protect your employees and your patrons from contamination that could lead to foodborne illness, better known as food poisoning. Proper food sanitation helps protect the restaurant's reputation, business growth, and longevity by ensuring that the food and beverages served are as safe as they can possibly be for consumption.
When improper sanitation techniques or no sanitation techniques are used, your restaurant could be shut down by the state. In addition to being shut down, you could also face fines from the state as well as lawsuits from diners and employees who become sick.
Even before a food sanitation issue grows to the extent that the state steps in to shut you down, the growth of your business could suffer. As word gets around that either diners or employees are becoming sick from your restaurant, your reputation will suffer. People simply won't want to take the risk of eating there. Your revenue will decline. Even if the state doesn't step in, a revenue problem could be the reason you must close the doors.
That's how serious food sanitation is- it the life and death of your food service establishment. The good news is that it doesn't have to be complicated. Here are some of our best tips to help you simplify the process.
Maintaining Personal Hygiene
Food sanitation actually starts with maintaining personal hygiene by those responsible for food handling. One of the best practices happens to be one of the easiest practices- proper hand and arm washing. Yes, that's right washing the hands and the forearms, all the way up to the elbows using warm water and antibacterial soap.
As a food handler, any employee should also wash under their fingernails using a nailbrush because nailbeds are an easy place for bacteria to hide. Hands and arms should be dried using a clean towel and should never be dried on aprons or towels used for cleaning. Handwashing should last for 20 seconds, which is just about as much time as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice. Hands should be washed frequently when handling foods.
Employees should also wear clean aprons. When aprons are dirty or if they wipe their hands or utensils on them, they should change their aprons immediately. This will help keep your employees as well as your diners safe from foodborne illnesses!
Sanitize Your Surfaces
Proper cleaning and surface sanitization are a simple practice that greatly reduces the risk of bacterial growth that causes foodborne illness. Both product surfaces and non-product contact surfaces must be properly sanitized as often as necessary and using the proper methods.
Proper cleaning doesn't just help minimize bacteria; it also helps prevent cross-contamination. For example, fresh vegetables removed from the refrigerator that was properly stored and cleaned that are then placed on a surface that was not properly sanitized could result in cross-contamination.
Surfaces aren't just cutting boards, counters, trays, bins, and warming locations. Surfaces are also plates, bowls, and utensils such as spatulas, tongs, forks, spoons, and knives. It's imperative that close attention is paid to small spaces on any surface. For example, the joining spaces between counters, the groove marks on a cutting board, or the tongs on a fork. These are breeding grounds for bacteria and should be prioritized in any food establishment.
Clean Your Equipment
Equipment should never be ignored. It should be taken apart to be sanitized so that it doesn't become the ideal place for bacteria to grow. If you have equipment that is used to slice, cut, or chop any kind of food, it is important that it is taken apart for sanitation purposes.
In addition to minimizing the likelihood of food poisoning, taking apart equipment to properly clean it can also improve the way that the kitchen equipment operates as well as preserving its efficiency. That could mean fewer service calls, depending on the equipment, as well as perhaps not needing to replace it quite as soon.
If you or your employees aren't quite sure how to clean certain equipment, don't worry! There are companies available that specialize in cleaning restaurant equipment. They know the specific codes in the state they operate within, they set up a regular schedule with the restaurants they service, and they help keep restaurants in compliance (as well as help keep the larger equipment safe to use).
How to Maintain Sanitation in Storing Your Food
Our final tip is also extremely important- properly storing food to ensure that it is safe to be used and, ultimately, consumed. This applies to both raw foods as well as to cooked food. Raw food should be properly stored in containers at the proper temperatures. Not only for minimizing bacteria growth but also for maintaining proper pest control.
For example, do not store raw meat and vegetables together in the same container. Ensure that eggs are kept in a refrigerator that at a temperature of at least 45 degrees F. Never thaw frozen meat at room temperature. When cooking meat, insert a digital thermometer into the thickest point while being careful to avoid the bone to determine that the meat's internal temperature is at least registering the minimum safe temperature. For example, the chicken must an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F.
Additionally, once the food is prepared it is important to keep food at a safe temperature. This could require cooling it to a safe temperature for storage, reheating it to a safe temperature for consumption, or keeping the food at a certain temperature to discourage the growth of bacteria.
Proper food sanitation is an absolute necessity for all restaurants to keep a great reputation and to stay in business.
It doesn't have to be difficult! Remember-
- Food safety starts with personal hygiene! Always wash from the hands to the elbows for at least 20 seconds, use a clean towel, and always wear a clean apron.
- Keep all surfaces sanitized regardless of whether they come into contact with food because this will help prevent cross-contamination.
- Take apart your equipment and clean it regularly. If you don't know how, look for services in your area that specialize in helping restaurants with this task.
- Always store food at the right temperature and in the right way to discourage the growth of harmful bacteria.