Restaurants are required to maintain a clean and sanitary environment for the health and safety of their customers and employees. In order to ensure safe food preparation and handling, every facet of the premises must be cleaned properly. Restaurant managers need to carefully examine the kitchen, eating and dining areas, as well as restrooms, to ensure the restaurant conforms with health and sanitation requirements necessitated by the local government.
Guidelines for Effective Sanitation
The goal of the Food Safety Modernization Act (the “Act”) is to guarantee the United States food supply is safe by changing the emphasis from reacting to food contamination, to preventing it. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has proposed two major policies of the Act relating to precautionary controls in food and produce safety. Although the Act focuses on farms and food processors, the benefits trickle down to restaurants and grocery stores in the form of improving the safety of meat and other foods.
Three main dangers exist that can make food unsafe: physical, chemical, and biological. Physical forms are dirt, hair, and other substances, chemical forms include pest control and cleaning solvents, and biological forms include microorganisms.
Some of the most referenced sanitation tips for preventing foodborne illnesses in food service industries are:
- Storing food for the proper amount of time and at proper temperatures
- Correct cleaning and sanitizing of all utensils, equipment, and food contact surfaces
- Proper employee personal hygiene and frequent washing of hands and arms, including covering any flesh wounds
- Suitable basic cleaning and maintenance
Appropriate education and training of employees, and keeping records of sanitation duties, are important as well.
Even though training and processes are instituted, their effectiveness is dependent upon their enforcement. Health Department inspections are public knowledge, and encourage businesses in the food industry to comply with Health and Safety regulations.
Sanitation in the Kitchen
The kitchen is one of the most vital areas of a restaurant to keep sanitary. This area is subjected to various contaminants, such as cooks, servers, and even cashiers, who could potentially contaminate food items. Uncooked food provides a health risk if kitchen surfaces are not effectively cleaned.
In order to clean a restaurant kitchen properly, employees need to sanitize surfaces and equipment that have come in contact with food and kitchen gadgets. State and local health officials establish the proper types of sanitizers kitchen employees should use. Kitchen items, such as countertops, cutting boards, and grills, should be disinfected as well.
Employee Personal Hygiene
The majority of foodborne illnesses are caused by bacteria or other microorganisms that are passed by those who work with food. All processes in food service can potentially impact food safety, such as purchasing, storing, preparing, serving, and cleaning.
One of the most basic steps to maintaining safe food is teaching restaurant staff the significance of basic hygiene. This includes frequent washing of hands and exposed arms, and in food handling, such as changing from touching raw to cooked food.
The FDA recommends that food employees wash their hands and the bare portions of their arms for a minimum of 20 seconds in a sink designated for hand washing. To prevent recontaminating hands and arms after washing, employees should use disposable paper towels when touching surfaces such as faucet and door handles.
Any injuries incurred on the hands or lower arms need to be cleaned and treated at once so they do not become infected, and contaminate food and equipment. Plastic or rubber gloves should be worn until the injury is healed. Also, do not allow hand washing in sinks designated for food preparation or equipment, and utensil washing, as that can contaminate those items.
Clean and Sanitize Contact Surfaces and Equipment
Appropriate cleaning and sanitizing of all utensils and food-contact surfaces and utensils are a necessity because food particles get caught in spaces, such as fork points and cutting boards. Avoid preparing raw fruits or vegetables and raw meat on the same surface simultaneously to prevent cross-contamination.
Equipment and facilities that are not sanitized may spread harmful bacteria to people or to food. Undesirable insects and small animals searching for food can contaminate food and equipment as well. Food equipment can be tricky to clean, particularly the internal parts where food can become trapped and produce bacteria. Some pieces of equipment must be taken apart to clean them efficiently.
Safe Storage of Food
It is imperative to store food items at the proper temperatures and for the correct time period to prevent bacteria from developing. Organisms are more likely to grow in the risk zone of internal food temperatures between 41°F and 135°F.
Experts recommend that a restaurant record temperatures and maintain procedures at each step of food preparation to ensure these requirements are upheld. Bacterial contamination after cooking can occur if food sits out of refrigeration for too long. Even though meat is prepared to the recommended cooking temperature, if the internal temperature drops significantly, bacteria can grow.
The location where the food is stored is also important to prevent cross-contamination. A usual mistake is placing meat to thaw on a top refrigerator shelf where it might drip onto foods on lower shelves.
It is essential to utilize good basic cleaning and maintenance methods for food preparation areas of restaurants. Businesses use a variety of chemicals to clean and sanitize to keep pests under control. However, if these products are used incorrectly, they could taint food and cause employees to become ill. Restaurant managers must train employees on how to use and store the chemicals properly.
Choosing and Using a Sanitizer
When choosing a sanitizer for your facility, it is important to select one that is listed with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Read the label to make sure the product is effective against the bacteria you want to destroy. It is also important the sanitizer is appropriate for the food equipment you plan to sanitize.
It is advisable to have an easy and safe measuring and dispensing system to ensure the sanitizer is diluted properly, and to avoid employee contact with concentrated chemicals. Using knowledgeable sanitizer vendors is helpful when selecting a product, since a professional can make recommendations and provide instruction.
Employees need training in the use of sanitizers to prevent the consequences related to incorrect sanitation. Inadequate sanitation can cause food prepared in a kitchen to become contaminated with bacteria. This may result from contact with organisms that can cause food to have a shorter shelf life. Cross-contamination with the organisms can also result in illness.
Contaminated food items can result in potential lawsuits, bad publicity, and a reduction in customers, which can make it difficult for a business to recover completely. Hence, it is important for every restaurant to uphold the maximum cleaning and sanitation standards in order to sustain its reputation.
Understanding the best methods for choosing and using sanitizers keeps your employees and customers safe by reducing the danger of possible deadly outbreaks.