Anytime I speak about Food Safety, food safety managers ask me, “What is the best way to keep our food safe and be ready for any food safety audit or inspection?” Today I will be speaking about food safety at restaurants and retail stores. I divide food safety at restaurants and retail store level into five different stages:
1- Receiving: managers have to ensure that they receive their food products at the proper temperature. Check packages for any sign of contamination. All food products shall be from an approved source and delivered in a clean vehicle. When the inspector walks into the building, she wants to know and observe your receiving guidelines. Give your employees the authority to reject any food product that does not meet your guidelines.
2- Storage: To ensure that inspectors are happy with your food storage area, do the following: Label food products, use the first-in-first-out system, check expiration dates, and keep all storage areas clean and organized.
Cold food shall be stored properly, start from the top shelf, and remember this: swim, walk, fly.
3-Preparation: the third stop inspectors like to visit is the preparation room, and they will check on the following: produce washing procedures, thawing food procedures, cutting board conditions, and food handling procedures.
4- Cooking: this is a critical step in foodservice; this is the step that kills any bacteria on food. To kill bacteria, food shall be cooked to the proper temperature; check the following table.
5- Service: hold hot food at 135 F or above, cold food at 41F or below, keep the foodservice area clean, and pay extra attention to the food handlers' hygiene. Use clean and sanitized utensils for serving, and eliminate bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat food.
This is a straightforward guideline to follow as you walk your facility every day. Health inspectors might follow their own routine as they inspect your facility, but these five stages are the same, and every inspector will inspect each one of them. If you have any questions about food safety, do not hesitate to contact me.