Safe food handling practices are required in any commercial kitchen to prevent the spread of bacteria and disease. Hygienic food preparation follows a few basic principles that will reduce your risk of liability and help you remain in compliance with local sanitation requirements. Here are four key components every restaurateur should keep in mind.
Avoid Cross- Contamination
Cross-contamination occurs whenever bacteria or other harmful substances are transferred from one food item to another. It often happens whenever juices from raw meat seep onto other foods from shared cutting boards or countertops. To avoid cross-contamination, you should:
- Use different surfaces or areas to prepare meat, poultry, and vegetables.
- Disinfect cutting boards, knives, and other equipment immediately following use.
- Wash hands prior to preparation, and again immediately after touching raw foods.
- Store raw food in a separate area of your refrigerator or freezer.
Cleaning your Kitchen
Another way to prevent the spread of bacteria is to keep your kitchen sparkling clean. In addition to washing hands and dishes, you should:
- Wipe up spills and other messes as you go.
- Use the appropriate disinfecting products to clean counters, stoves, walls, and floors.
- Take out the trash often. Do not allow it to build up.
When it comes to cleaning, personal hygiene and food hygiene are synonymous. Not only should your employees have good personal hygiene, but they should also wear clean clothing, remove dirt from underneath their fingernails, and use hair and/or beard nets as appropriate.
Chilling Cold Items
Certain foods must be refrigerated at the right temperature in order to preserve them. Eggs, milk, and dairy products should be refrigerated, in addition to prepared salads. Use a thermometer to check the temperature of your refrigerator to ensure it is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Have a backup plan in place in the event one or more of your refrigerator units goes down.
When preparing or serving food, limit the amount of time your items are out at room temperature. Surrounding containers with plenty of ice will help keep them cold and maximize the amount of time you can safely leave them out.
Cooking Hot Food
Foods that are not refrigerated must be cooked at the right temperature to kill bacteria. This is especially important when preparing poultry or pork. Beef may be slightly pink in the middle so long as a cut is nearly cooked through and the internal temperature is at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit. However, you may want to insist on cooking steaks to at least 155 degrees in order to reduce the odds of someone getting sick.
It’s not enough to just cook food all the way through, as you must also maintain the right temperature when serving. Hot items should be maintained at between 140 and 165 degrees to ensure their safety.
Good food hygiene is important any time, but is absolutely essential when you are serving members of the public. Implement these good hygiene practices and the odds of you developing a food safety problem will be greatly diminished.