Don’t Let Your Restaurant Make These Food Safety and Sanitation Mistakes

Food safety is of utmost importance for restaurants, catering companies and other food services organizations. One food poisoning episode can effectively tear a good reputation in shreds – a reputation you have worked hard to gain. As a restaurant owner or manager, part of the job description is to be vigilant when it comes to ensuring that food safety and sanitation procedures are followed at all times. Otherwise, your staff can easily make mistakes that can jeopardize your restaurant’s food safety standards.

Here are some common mistakes that you should be on the lookout for:

  • Overloading the refrigerators. Your staff may think that cramming as much inventory into the refrigerators is being space-efficient. It is not. A cramped refrigerator results in poor circulation of the cool air. The containers stuck in the center may not maintain the necessary temperature they need so that they don’t spoil. Be sure to leave ample room in between items. Of course, freezers are a different case, as keeping the freezer full helps it do its work more efficiently.
  • Poor labeling procedures. HACCP has procedures on how restaurant staff should label ingredients, especially those where the packaging has been opened. Also, when storing inventory, follow the first-in, first-out method so that you ensure that the oldest stock is used first. Make sure that expiration dates are also noted when transferring the raw ingredients into a new container. The same goes for cleaning materials, detergents and pesticides – these should have clear labels as well.
  • Forgetting to clean the less-obvious areas. Sometimes, it is easy to miss areas that are not as noticeable. These include the flatware caddy, walls, counter cracks, ventilation filters, exhaust hoods, as well as nooks and crannies of the kitchen equipment. These can house insects and vermin, as well as grime and other contaminants that may compromise food safety. You should also take the time to regularly clean and sanitize key food equipment such as fillers and slicers. This can be a challenge, since you will need to take these apart. However, you need to make time to do this for food safety purposes.
  • Failing to treat and respond to injuries immediately. The kitchen is a place where nicks, burns and wounds are common. No matter how busy a staff member is, they should immediately get treatment for injuries, particularly when these are on the lower arms or on the hands. They should also don safety gloves until the injury has completely healed.
  • Taking short-cuts in hand washing. Because the kitchen is a bustling place, it can be tempting to take the quick way out. A staff member may haphazardly wash his hands or skip hand washing altogether. If there are no available single-use napkins, he may simply choose to wipe his hands on his apron or reuse an available dishtowel.
  • Forgetting about water supply issues. Be on the lookout for any warnings regarding water issues, especially when you are using the water for your ice maker. If there are any potential problems with the water supply, you can temporarily use bottled water or, at the very least, boil the water first before using it.

Most of these mistakes can be easily remedied by personnel training and by instilling a culture of safety among the staff. Schedule regular training sessions for personnel and ensure that all new additions are up to speed about your procedures.

 

Food Safety Basics: Handling Leftovers

Holiday dinners are great opportunities to be with loved ones and friends. However, after you have filled your stomach to maximum capacity, you can always expect plenty of leftovers from all the sumptuous pies, casseroles, roasted meat and more that you have prepared. It is very important that these leftovers be handled with care so that you can still enjoy their goodness while keeping safe from any food-borne illness.

When storing leftovers, stay clean. Use clean containers, food scoops, and utensils when storing your leftovers. Be sure that you have thoroughly washed your hands. Use clean containers or plastic food trays wrapped in foil or clear plastic wrap to keep the food airtight. The more you minimize the presence of air in the food, the more you keep harmful bacteria out and prevent spills from other food from getting into the stored leftovers. Airtight packaging also ensures that smells from other food don’t mingle with this current batch of leftovers.

Throw out dubious leftovers. Are you unsure of the leftovers in your refrigerator? It’s better to throw them out rather than risk it. Sometimes, you sense of taste, smell and sight may not be the best indicators of whether a batch of leftovers is safe to eat. Their exposure to the elements may warrant the leftovers unsafe to eat. Generally, once food has been removed from its heat source and left uncovered in room temperature for over two hours, it can no longer be considered safe to eat if it has not been refrigerated. There are plenty of airborne bacteria that can get into the food and cause illness. Be sure to consume refrigerated leftovers within 4 days. Meanwhile, frozen leftovers, when packed well, can last for as long as three months. However, note that the longer the food stays frozen, the more it loses its flavor. Place labels on the food, including the name of the food and the date it was first stored.

Refrigerate or freeze food the soonest. Leftovers must be cooled or frozen quickly to limit the growth of bacteria. Rather than storing one big batch of the food in the refrigerator, divide the leftovers and store them in smaller containers or food trays. Remember, big batches of food cool down more slowly than smaller portions. Set the refrigerator at 40°F. To be on the safe side, you can also make use of an appliance thermometer to check the temperature.

Heating leftovers. Never allow your leftovers to simply thaw under room temperature! It is like leaving a bacteria magnet on your kitchen counter. You should thaw leftovers using the microwave or by defrosting while the refrigerated or frozen leftovers are still inside the refrigerator. If you are using melamine plates or plastic containers, make sure they are microwave safe. When heating via microwave, be careful in handling the food, since it may be very hot. The food must be reheated evenly, minimizing any cold spots. Stir in between heating times. This allows the cold parts to take in the heat of the surrounding food. When reheating food in the stove, reheat at 165°F or bring to a rolling boil while stirring. Make sure that you cover the food being reheated so that the heated moisture can work to kill more bacteria.

Charcoal vs. Gas Grill: The Continuing Debate

The longtime debate between charcoal and gas grills continues. However, as summer grill season approaches and stores ramp up their selection of grills, consumers often wonder about the pros and cons associated with each type.

To non-food aficionados, charcoal versus gas grills are a matter of convenience and taste. There are more types of grills than just charcoal and gas, as electric, hardwood and pellet grills are gaining in popularity. The most common ways to analyze this grill debate is to break it down into sections.

  • Convenience – The more convenient a grill is, generally the less smoke flavor it will produce. Electric grills are easy to use, but they lack fire flavor. Hardwood grills infuse foods with luscious flavor, but are far more labor intensive and difficult to deal with.
  • Authenticity – Grilled foods cooked over an open flame offer an authentic smoky flavor. Electric units impart little flavor and leave foods virtually flavorless.
  • Taste – When studies were conducted concerning taste differences between charcoal and gas grills, tasters claimed they couldn’t tell a distinct difference between hamburgers, but the taste differences between grills cooking steaks were substantial. Tasters said that steak grilled on a charcoal grill had a distinct smoky flavor.
  • Space – Many times space requirements will dictate certain types of grills. Electric grills offer the convenience of no flare-ups and are safe in small areas. Large charcoal grills require a covered area or small patio and should be stored out of inclement weather conditions. Gas grills also offer limited flare-ups; however, they need to be stored away from structures, as they can cause house fires. Charcoal grills require an electric starter but produce hardly any open flame.
  • Grilling – Planning is another aspect to take into consideration. If someone wants to simply come home from work and have a grilled steak, the convenience of an electric or gas grill is unsurpassed. Charcoal grills require necessary heating up, approximately 30 to 45 minutes.
  • Cost – There are cost differences between grills. Charcoal grills are generally the least expensive, with gas and electric being more costly. In the long run, charcoal is a more expensive fuel and doesn’t save money in the long run.

Most importantly, consumers need to research grills prior to making a purchase. Grills can last a long time, depending upon the quality and care given. Some gas grills are more expensive, but last upwards of 10 to 15 years. Charcoal grills are generally inexpensive and can last a long time, if stored properly in wintertime conditions. While grill model costs can vary, there are a number of online resources that share consumer opinion, cooking quality and regulated temperatures.

Lions Deal offers a wide selection of commercial kitchenware, which perfectly accompanies grills. They offer a wide assortment of discount flatware, melamine dinnerware, condiment stands, food trays and restaurant dishes.

Summertime Barbecues

Spring is in full swing and people are beginning to think ahead, planning their fun-filled summertime barbecues. While some people may feel overwhelmed by planning a get together, LionsDeal breaks down barbecue planning, making it simple, fun and most importantly enjoyable.

  • Set the Mood – Relaxed defines summertime barbecues. Make sure guests feel comfortable and choose casual clothing. If the weather is optimal, tables can be set up outside. Table decor should include bright, warm colors and be casual and informal. Barbecues are an acceptable occasion for paper plates and plastic glasses. Delicious barbecue meal options include salads, burgers, kebabs and sandwiches.
  • Activities – Summertime barbecues are more fun-filled with activities. Whether it’s setting up Frisbee golf, croquet, badminton or volleyball, these sports-centric activities are sure to be a hit for adults and children alike.
  • Menu Planning – Consider planning summer foods that includes appetizers, a main course, desserts and an assortment of beverages.
  • Appetizers – Some of the best appetizers include tortilla chips, homemade salsas and even pineapple kebabs.
  • Main Course – Burgers and hotdogs are popular main courses, but healthy alternatives include grilled chicken, seafood kebabs or even delicious, slow-cooked pork spareribs.
  • Salads – Salads are a hit at barbecues and popular selections include standard potato and macaroni salads, but healthy alternatives include Israeli Couscous with cucumbers and tomatoes, Greek Quinoa salad and other wheat-free options.
  • Refreshing Beverages – Include a variety of cold beer, iced tea or fruity sangria.
  • Desserts – A variety of summertime desserts includes berry and fruit pieces, S’mores or a wide selection of chocolate-colored fruits.

If a summer barbecue is well planned, it will help eliminate many hiccups, allowing hosts and guests to have a fantastic time among friends and family. Part of the barbecue experience includes providing a casual, yet fun atmosphere, one that lends to a memorable barbecue.

Barbecues are excellent family-oriented events, giving children and adults an opportunity to mingle in a single setting, playing games, eating finger foods and catching up on friendly conversation.

LionsDeal offers a wide variety of commercial kitchenware, as well as commercial dinnerware, including several items that are handy for summer-time barbecues. They offer an assortment of chafers, cheap silverware, flatware caddy, food trays, pizza pans, plastic food trays, restaurant dishes and even salt and pepper shakers.

3 Ways Restaurants Can Ensure Visitor’s Health and Safety

For many years, restaurants have played a major role in promoting healthy diets and lifestyle choices for millions of families around the world. But with the increasing demand to implement and maintain food safety standards, it has become mandatory for restaurants to continuously improve their food quality procedures not just to keep up with competition but also to promote safer food preparation. Here are the top 3 ways that restaurants can ensure their customer’s health and safety:

Provide regular training to employees regarding food safety

The key to ensuring that food is kept safe and sanitary for customers to enjoy is correct knowledge among restaurant employees.This includes the food production crew, food service staff and even employees whose work is not related to food or food handling.Inadequate training is one of the top 5 reasons why employees in the food service industry fail to meet food safety standards.

It is also important to educate restaurant staff and employees regarding the negative consequences of unhygienic food handling and food preparation within unsanitary premises.With proper training, employees become aware of what they are expected to do in order to perform their job well and keep their customers healthy and safe.

Make food safety a priority

Other than food taste, choice and presentation, another way that restaurants can promote food safety and customer’s health is to ensure that food safety becomes a primary concern of food workers. Currently, there are over 13 million workers employed by the restaurant and food service industry. Sadly, over 55% of illnesses that are caused by food can be traced to restaurants. In most cases, these incidents are caused by improper or erroneous food handling.

To encourage the implementation of food safety standards in restaurants, it would help if signs are put up in places such as the food preparation and food delivery areas, washrooms and toilets. These will serve as a reminder not just to restaurant employees but also to customers that a high standard of food safety practices is in place.

Use products that promote food safety

Another way that restaurants can promote customer health and food safety is by using facilities and equipment that are considered safe and hygienic. A few recommended products include:

Safety gloves – food handlers are required to wear safety gloves to keep food safe and prevent spoilage. Safety gloves serve a double purpose — they protect the servers hands and ensure that food contamination does not occur.

NSF food storage containers – NSF is the safety standard seal in the food industry. Products with this seal are considered food grade, safe for use in the kitchen and in the dining area and are hygienic.

Food dispensers – food dispensers are ideal for storage. They are air-tight and made with strong material that keep away contaminants such as dust, dirt, smoke, oil and bugs. They are also useful for cursory visual checks of food items for spoilage.

Sneezeguards – these are designed to prevent food contamination for displays and buffets. Made of clear, sturdy material such as glass or fiberglass, sneezegards provide ample visual of and access to the food and ensure that food is protected from foreign material.

Soap dispensers – are considered more hygienic than soap bars. Since users’ hands do not touch the soap itself, contamination is kept to a minimum.

Hand dryers – may either be push button or automatic. Hand dryers are a must in restaurants because they replace soiled, used towels. They are recommended both for food preparation areas and washrooms. In lieu of hand dryers, paper towels and paper towel dispensers may also be used.

Toilet seat covers and dispensers – bacteria from human waste such as E. coli and salmonella are notorious for contaminating food and jeopardizing food safety standards. By using disposable seat covers, restaurants can ensure that hygienic practices are in place.

Protecting Your Restaurant Against Swine Flu and Other Deadly Viruses

When disease-causing bacteria and viruses such as swine flu become a health threat, restaurants are on the alert. Very often, when health-related crises occur, the food business becomes risky — customers are more wary, food preparation procedures undergo revisions and the food service sector comes under strict scrutiny. However, protecting your restaurant against the risk of swine flu and other deadly viruses does not need to be costly or troublesome. Here are just a few practical solutions restaurant owners can implement at any time to save on cost and keep customers safe:

Promoting awareness

The most important asset of every restaurant and food service establishment is its staff.Staff must be aware of the risks presented by swine flu and other deadly viruses not just to themselves and their customers but also to the business.Restaurants should have a set of food preparation and handling procedures in place that staff must follow.These rules are meant not just to control how food is handled and prepared but also to ensure that good quality and safety is maintained.

Another advantage to having restaurant staff that is aware and educated about the risks of swine flu is that they can work independently and will not require close supervision in order to maintain the restaurant’s quality standards. This increases the restaurant’s efficiency and improves their service.

Minimizing physical contact with food during preparation and serving

Swine flu can be passed on through livestock-to-human and human-to-human transmissions. It is believed to be transmitted in the same manner that the common flu or cold is transmitted — by sneezing or coughing. It may also be possible for a person to become infected if he touches his hands or fingers to his nose, mouth or eyes after he has touched a surface that already has the virus on it.

Restaurants can minimize this risk by requiring their workers to wear food safety products such as food handler gloves, safety gloves and face masks.This should prevent food contamination and protect customers from food contamination caused by unhygienic practices.

Restaurants can also implement food safety standards by using products that are specifically designed to protect food and prevent or minimize contamination. Bulk food dispensers and food storage containers, for example, are excellent for this purpose.Dispensers keep food relatively fresh, prolonging their shelf life and preventing spoilage.

Ensuring food safety during serving

Restaurants can keep food safe and clean prior to serving by using products such as Saf-T ice scoops, sneezeguards and food wraps made of film or foil. Food should also be served on food pans that do not encourage bacterial growth. Food pans and serving plates must be made with materials such as stainless steel, glazed ceramic or even plastic/melamine.These materials are easy to clean and will not contaminate food.Food containers should also have the NSF food safety seal and can withstand the range of temperatures required for their use.

Prior to serving, chafer covers should also be used with food pans and containers. Chafer covers not just protect the food from foreign material, they also help maintain the ideal temperature before serving.

Keeping a clean environment

Restaurants are required by health and food safety laws to ensure cleanliness. Restaurant staff and customers should be provided by the means to maintain good hygiene. Helpful products in this department include soap dispensers, push button hand dryers, toilet seat covers, seat cover dispensers and paper towels. They provide the means with which people can keep their hands clean before and after a meal and can significantly minimize contamination by reducing the risks of bacteria and viruses such as swine flu within restaurant premises.

Promoting Food Safety Practices in Restaurants

Implement proper food handling and preparation

Most incidents of food contamination occur during handling and preparation. This is why restaurants should impose strict procedures to ensure that food, including raw materials, is kept clean and free of contaminants. Raw food items such as fresh produce, meat, poultry, eggs, fish and seafood should also be kept at recommended temperatures.

To maintain the freshness of raw food products, restaurants should also ensure that proper food storage is performed. Raw food, for example, has to be kept at specific temperatures to prevent the growth of bacteria. Once processed or cooked, certain dishes should also be stored at certain temperatures prior to serving. Restaurants should also be aware of the recommended shelf life of food products to avoid serving expired or spoiled food.

Another way to keep food safe and clean is by using food dispensers. Food dispensers can store large amounts of food that are frequently bought and used in bulk, such as rice, cereals and other grains, flour, sugar, powdered milk and the like.

Ensure hygienic food preparation and service

One of the most common ways food contamination can occur is through touch. Bacteria and other organisms can easily transfer from the server’s hands to the food, especially if he works barehanded. To prevent this from happening, staff that are in charge of food preparation and service should use products that are designed to keep food safe, such as safety gloves and masks.

Minimize airborne contamination

Many of disease-causing bacteria can survive outside of the carrier’s body. They can be released through coughing, sneezing or spitting. Restaurants can minimize this route of contamination by requiring servers to use face masks and gloves. Safety gloves are also recommended for knife handlers. These gloves have reinforced surfaces that protect the palms of the user from cuts.

When food is displayed, such as in a buffet-style restaurant, food safety can be jeopardized either by deliberate or accidental contamination. This can be prevented by installing a sneezeguard over the table where food is served. Sneezegards are made of clear glass, fiberglass or plastic. They serve as a barrier between the customer and the food to prevent contamination in case a customer coughs or sneezes. The sneezegard can also prevent stray hairs and falling items such as keys, IDs, pens and articles of clothing from touching the food.

Keep a clean environment

Restaurant washrooms and toilets are sources of organisms such as salmonella and E.coli which are common causes of gastrointestinal diseases. To ensure food safety in restaurants, these areas should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.

There are also products that could be installed to ensure proper hygiene among users. Washrooms should have running water, soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers or push-button hand dryers. Dispensers are very effective in promoting hygiene because they minimize actual contact while hand dryers prevent the sharing of hand towels among multiple users.

You can keep your restaurant clean, safe, and healthy for your guests and do your part in helping prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as the swine flu through utilizing the proper equipment and supplies. If you need any help or have questions about food service safety products don’t hesitate to contact us.