The What's What on Fast Food- Compliancy and Food Safety

Introduction to Fast Food

The fast food industry generates $570 billion in revenue each year. Fast food restaurant owners must follow fast food food safety protocols to make sure their customers can eat food that is the highest quality possible.

The Fast Food Industry

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The vast majority, if not all major fast food restaurant franchises have experienced a foodborne illness outbreak despite largely following food safety protocol. Fast casual food is a part of American culture and the accessibility of a drive thru and swift food preparation is a staple for many families. An estimated 3,000 Americans die as a result of contracting a foodborne illness and 128,000 are hospitalized in total.

What fast food service workers must know is that even a slight error in food safety compliance can result in a public health disaster that could result in not only a damaged brand reputation but the loss of human lives. The financial costs, including legal fees and productivity loss, are estimated to be $51 billion every year.

Over 200,000 fast food restaurants operate in the United States. An estimated 50 million Americans eat at a fast food restaurant every day. In the United States alone the fast food industry generates over $200 billion in revenue each year. Comparatively, in 1970 only $6 billion was spent at fast food chain restaurants. The fast food industry is expected to have a growth of 2.5% annually.

There are many critics of the fast food industry ranging from Taco Bell critiques about cultural degradation to poor working conditions that result in 50% of front line fast food industry employees relying on some form of public assistance.

The fast food industry has largely become a public health debate, with many critics concerned about the food safety of fast casual drive thru food service restaurants. The fast food industry is attempting to respond to these critiques through means including more aggressive food safety compliance, increasing franchise diversity, and providing more healthy food options.

Fast Food Industry Food Poisoning

The fast food industry has a bad reputation for transmitting foodborne illness and a perceived lack of food safety protocol. Media coverage of fast food public health issues that document illness outbreak can negatively affect the perception of the entire fast food industry.

A notable case occurred in December 2006 when 71 Taco Bell customers experienced foodborne illness from consuming contaminated shredded lettuce that originated in California. When an illness outbreak occurs there is a public health response and calls for reforms to the entire fast food industry.

Food Safety Guidelines for Fast Food Restaurants

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There are various food safety guidelines that fast food restaurants follow for food safety optimization-

Wash hands- Make sure your employees wash their hands frequently to ensure your customers can eat food that was prepared as safely as possible. Improper handwashing can lead to a foodborne illness outbreak and public health crisis.

Cross-contamination avoidance- Cross-contamination happens through unintentional harmful material that is swapped from one food item to another. Make sure to use separate kitchen tools and frequently wash hands when handling different food products.

You can use a color-coded system and separate food tools by food type they are used on. Generally, you should use different kitchen tools for preparing raw meat, produce, and cooked foods. If this is not possible, make sure that you thoroughly sanitize kitchen tools when switching between different food product types.

Sanitize surfaces- Make sure to sanitize and clean all surfaces to avoid pests and harmful microorganisms being in contact with your food product. This includes areas that some fast food employees may not organically consider such as your trash cans and floor drains.

Your food safety regimen should be broken down by daily, weekly, and monthly sanitation and cleaning protocols and procedures. Make sure that your food chain employees are well informed about the relationship between food safety and sanitation.

Food recall adherence- As a food chain restaurant owner you must make sure to be well informed about food recalls. Regularly check public health websites such as the Food and Drug Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture for food recall list publications.

Monitoring Food in a Restaurant vs. a Fast Food Chain

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There are important differences to consider between food safety monitoring in a fast food chain restaurant in comparison to a more traditional restaurant. Although some people assume that when they eat food at a sit-down restaurant they are less likely to be a victim of a foodborne illness they may be surprised to find out that there are unique benefits to food safety that fast food chain restaurants.

When you eat food at a traditional restaurant you are more likely to be served fresh food products that are locally sourced and less chemically processed. Fast food chain restaurants usually have frozen chemically processed foods that have been preprocessed specifically to reduce the risk of foodborne illness and for food safety optimization.

Alternatively, fast food chain restaurant employees are more likely to be underpaid young adults and therefore may be less concerned about food safety protocol. Restaurant owners and workers may put more pride in their food safety techniques because they have a better connection to their workplace.

Studies find that the large majority of frequent public health department violations could have been avoided with better employee education and training programs. Regardless of restaurant type, proper food safety training is crucial to decreasing foodborne illness and increasing public health nationally.