Food Safety: Get Back to Basics

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I’ve spent most of my life in the foodservice industry, and things have changed dramatically since my early days in the business. Back then, we didn’t have single-use gloves in the restaurant, we wore our hair down, I hadn’t heard of Hepatitis A, E. Coli, Norovirus, Salmonellosis, or Shigellosis, nor would I for years to come. During my early days in the business, food-safety wasn’t even discussed.

But that all changed when Jack in the Box had an E. Coli crisis in 1993, and 700 individuals became ill, 171 were hospitalized and four died. Tragically the outbreak put food safety on the map. Since then, food-safety protocols have been developed to keep customers safe.

Foodborne illness is 100 per cent preventable. The food safety experts at Savvy Food Safety, Inc. suggest going back to basics to keep guests safe:

  • Create a food safety culture from the executive level to hourly team members. Don’t just talk the talk – walk the walk.
  • Don’t just create policies and procedures, but explain why the policies are important. Your employees are more likely to comply if they understand why the rules are in place.
  • Don’t allow employees to work when they’re ill. They could spread serious illnesses like norovirus, which is highly contagious.
  • Train continuously. Educate employees about avoiding cross-contamination, using thermometers and following other critical food-safety procedures.
  • Use temperature logs. This helps you spot temperature issues before they become a cost factor or a liability issue.
  • Conduct self-inspections. Catch small issues before they become big problems. For example, if your recent delivery wasn’t stored properly, you can take corrective action. Otherwise, there could be a spoilage issue or a cross-contamination problem.
  • Conduct third-party audits. Someone objective from the “outside” will see things from a different perspective and point out possible infractions. Hire someone reputable who knows the business and genuinely cares about your outcome.
  • Check deliveries. Supplies must be at the proper temperature – hot food should be hot, cold food cold, frozen food frozen, and products should always be properly sealed.
  • Only use approved reputable suppliers that are inspected and follow local, state and federal guidelines.
  • If in doubt, throw it out!

Establish – and implement – food-safety protocols so foodborne illness outbreaks don’t happen to you.

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Francine L. Shaw is President of Savvy Food Safety, Inc. which offers a robust roster of services, including consulting, food safety education, food safety inspections, crisis management training, writing norovirus policies for employees, writing norovirus clean-up procedures, curriculum development, responsible alcohol service training, and more. The Savvy Food Safety team has more than 100 combined years of industry experience in restaurants, casinos, and convenience stores and has helped numerous clients prevent foodborne illnesses. Francine has been featured as a food safety expert in numerous media outlets, including the Dr. Oz Show, the Huffington Post, iHeartRadio, Food Safety News, Food Management Magazine and Food Service Consultants Society International.

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