Killer Ideas for Improving Food Safety in Commercial Kitchens
If you operate a commercial kitchen or food service facility, you want to serve up meals that are appetizing and delicious. But there’s one dish you never want on your menu: foodborne illness. It’s amazing how easy viruses, bacteria and other harmful agents can make their way into ingredients and other areas of your operation, wreaking havoc and ruining your reputation. Be sure you have a Food Safety Program in place to mitigate microbes in your kitchen and ensure your staff and customers stay happy and healthy.
Know Your Adversary: Foodborne Illness
Sometimes referred to as food poisoning or foodborne disease, there are several causes of foodborne illness. The most common disease-causing microbe contributing to it is a contagious virus called norovirus. Also common are the bacterium Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens (C. perfringens) and Campylobacter. Independently, poisonous chemicals and other harmful toxins can also contribute to foodborne poisoning if they make their way into food products.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 6 Americans, or roughly 48 million, get sick each year through eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated beverages. Of that number, 128,000 are hospitalized and a sobering 3,000 die. Recent foodborne illness outbreaks from major chain restaurants and grocery stores have also underscored the seriousness of the problem, demonstrating that no operation is immune from potential contamination. For these reasons, it’s critical to remain diligent regarding sanitizing procedures in your overall food safety program. Good practices serve to protect your customers, your business and your brand.
Top 5 Pathogens Contributing to Foodborne Illness, and the Nyco Products that Mitigate Them:
|Pathogen||Annual Illnesses in the U.S. (estimated)*||Nyco Products with Efficacy Against these Pathogens|
Raw Food: A Hideout for Bacteria
The earlier in the food supply chain food becomes contaminated, the greater the potential for widespread outbreak. The CDC states that raw foods of animal origin (meat, poultry, eggs, milk and shellfish) have the highest incidence of contamination. Foods bought in bulk that intermix the products of many animals, such as ground beef or pooled raw eggs, can be especially dangerous, since a single contaminated item can affect an entire batch. Considering that one burger may contain meat from hundreds of cows or an individual omelet may contain eggs from dozens of chickens, you can see how the multiplier effect can quickly spread the contamination.
Raw fruits and vegetables can also carry unsafe bacteria. Unfortunately, simply washing them does not eliminate bacteria in all cases. Pathogens can also be introduced if unclean water is used to wash fresh produce.
The Enemy Among Us: How Food Becomes Contaminated
There are many opportunities for food to become contaminated on its way to the customer. Animals or shellfish may already have trace amounts of bacteria in their system, and when brought together with other animals, that bacteria can be transferred. Workers at all points in the supply chain can introduce viruses or bacteria into food through unwashed hands, using contaminated tools or utensils, or by using the same cutting board or workspace to prepare different foods. Lax storage or refrigeration practices in food service facilities can also encourage the growth of bacteria and viruses.
On the Attack: Food Safety Practices That Prevent Foodborne Illness
Good cleaning and sanitizing practices and procedures are an absolute must in helping prevent foodborne illness from infiltrating your kitchen. The following practices are some of the most effective ways to keep bacteria at bay in food service:
- Keep hands clean – Obvious, right? You can go a long way in helping prevent the spread of foodborne illness by requiring employees to practice proper hand hygiene, especially hand washing. Since most harmful bacteria is spread by those who prepare and handle food, (National Food Service Management Institute), teaching and regularly reinforcing this practice only makes sense. Laminate and mount Nyco’s Handwashing Chart in your employee restroom and above sinks.
- Clean food contact surfaces and tools – Any tools or surfaces involved in food preparation or storage need to be regularly cleaned and sanitized. Food particles can easily get trapped in small areas like counter seams, tile cracks or blades. Nyco’s Table Time 200 is a ready-to-use food contact sanitizer that eliminates 99.999% of harmful bacteria in industrial food handling and process areas. Here’s a useful Food Service Cleaning and Sanitation Frequency Chart to help keep you on task.
- Sanitize kitchen equipment – It is critical to clean and sanitize all preparation and processing equipment that come in contact with food. Nyco’s N601+ is a broad-spectrum disinfectant that kills harmful viruses and bacteria like E.coli and Salmonella on appliances and processing equipment. For detailed information on how to clean your specific kitchen equipment, search a list of Nyco’s Kitchen/Equipment cleaning procedures.
- Practice good housekeeping – Insects can also carry germs, so keeping them out of your drains, traps and other moist kitchen areas should be a priority. Nyco Uno is a cleaner, disinfectant and virucide that controls small flies that love to hang around kitchen drains and traps. It also acts as a mildewstat to kill mold. Use all chemicals as directed to avoid contamination.
- Store food safely – Even food that has already been cooked can pose a contamination risk, especially if it has been left out too long. Be sure to store food at the correct temperature and for the recommended length of time. The federal Food and Drug Administration recommends a refrigeration air temperature of 38° Fahrenheit or below, and a freezer temperature of 0° Fahrenheit or below. Cross-contamination in storage areas can also be a problem, and food service workers should be diligent about proper sealing of food items to prevent leaking and spillage. Whether cooked or uncooked, date code your food and supplies.
Winning the War on Food Safety
Having good cleaning and sanitizing practices in place at your food service operation is critical for the health and safety of your staff, customers, and business. Continually reinforcing the above food safety procedures in your kitchen will help to control harmful pathogens before they can get a foothold and harm the good opinion others hold of your dining establishment. By proactively fighting the bacteria battle each day, you are well positioned to win this all-important war.
National Food Service Management Institute. (2009). Serving it safe. University, MS: Author.