Kitchen Health and Food Safety Tips

We give you the lowdown on maintaining a healthy kitchen

By Kinnek Community

Proper food safety is critical to the running of a successful commercial kitchen.  Bad food safety habits could lead to cross-contamination and the spread of food borne illness, which may then lead to a low inspection grade, negative reviews from disgruntled and sickened customers, and a sullied reputation for your business, among others.  Food safety requires that certain policies be implemented to ensure consistency.  It simply will not do for only certain individuals to be trained in food safety - all employees should be trained and aware of the various policies necessary to maintain high standards of health and service.

Consider the following tips as a starting point:

Ensure that Employees Consistently Wash Their Hands
Handling food can increase the risk of food poisoning if the employee has not practiced good hygiene (for example, dirt, grease, bacteria, and other pathogens may be present on the employee’s hands).  Food handlers should wash their hands frequently, and should always wash their hands before touching food and between tasks.  Employees should take special care to remember to wash their hands when handling raw ingredients, which present an even greater risk of cross-contamination and illness.

Wash Your Produce
Because produce is often served raw, bacteria, dirt, pesticides, and other chemicals may settle on the surface.  Wash all produce before serving to maximize safety, and take care not to mix washed and unwashed produce so as to prevent cross-contamination.

Cook Meat at a Safe Temperature
Use a meat thermometer to precisely measure the internal heat of your cooked meat.  To ensure that your meat is as bacteria-free as possible, follow the USDA safe temperature guidelines.  It is also important that you minimize the time meat spends in the “danger zone” (temperatures between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F).  Two hours in the danger zone range may result in irreversible spoilage.  Thus, if you are slow cooking stews, soups, or meat, do regularly conduct checkups on the temperature so that it does not stay within the danger zone range.

Store and Prepare Certain Foods Separately
Unfortunately, many commercial kitchens do not establish food storage and preparation best-practices to maintain high standards of food quality and safety.  As a general rule, good food storage is reliant on isolation: food storage containers should be labeled to prevent accidental cross-contamination and raw foods should be stored separately from cooked foods.  Do whatever is necessary to prevent contact between the contents of raw ingredients and cooked ingredients.  

Safe food preparation is also based on isolation.  Food should always be prepared on clean surfaces, and raw and uncooked foods should be prepared separately (and on separate boards).  Many kitchens achieve this more easily by designating certain kitchen tools and boards for raw foods, and others for cooked foods.

Sanitize In-between Food Prep Tasks
Though it may be time-consuming, train employees to clean food preparation equipment between tasks.  Eventually it will become second nature.

Always Account for Employee Illness
Sick employees should be encouraged to stay at home rather than coming into work, as they may transfer their illness to customers by food contact, person-to-person contact, or equipment/utensil contact.  Sick customers can cripple a budding business with negative reviews.  Always schedule staff for the possibility of illness so that employees can take sick days when necessary without restaurant service grinding to a halt.

Check your Dishwasher
Conduct regular maintenance checks of your dishwasher to ensure that it is working at peak efficiency and that the proper sanitization chemicals (in the correct quantity) are being used.

Educate Staff on Local Health Codes and Safety Guidelines
Educating staff on safety guidelines is important, not only for maintaining consistency in food safety practices for your business, but also due to the health inspection system.  Health inspectors may ask your staff about food safety, handling, and preparation, and staff will be required to show that they are knowledgable about these subjects.  Owners must also have a working knowledge of various local health codes and regulations as applies to them and their business.

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