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4 Food Safety Tips

Gretchen Robinson
Gretchen Robinson | September 11, 2014

Keeping food safe from pathogens that you can’t see, smell or taste can seem overwhelming! How can you protect yourself and those you serve from an invisible villain?

Implement and monitor a food safety program!

Most food safety practices come down to four basic elements: clean, separate, cook and chill.

  1. Clean
    One of the most important things food handlers need to keep clean is their hands! We all know this, yet 99% of people fail to do it properly. One safeguard is practicing good personal hygiene: always wash hands after changing tasks or becoming contaminated. That makes for a long list of when you should wash your hands…and yes, it includes washing them after sending a quick text! (Did you know that 1/3 of people do not wash their hands after touching an electronic device?)

    Also, remind staff that gloves do not take the place of handwashing. Food handlers must change gloves when they become contaminated.

    Counters, utensils and other food contact surfaces also need to be cleaned and sanitized after each use. Sanitization is different than cleaning, but we often lump the tasks together. The proper method includes cleaning with a soap or detergent that removes the visible soil from a surface then rinsing to remove the soap, followed by heat or chemical sanitizing to bring any surviving pathogens on the surface to a safe level. These steps must be implemented  in order! Make sure you check your local food code for acceptable procedures and sanitizer, and check with your chemical company for specs on chemical concentration.

  2. Separate
    Separating food helps prevent cross-contamination. You can accomplish this by keeping like items together (ready-to-eat foods all stored ABOVE other foods to avoid spills and splashes). Separate food during preparation, too. After preparing one type of food, wash, rinse and sanitize the surface or equipment before starting new food preparation. Color-coded equipment works well to help avoid cross contamination as well.

  3. Cook
    Cooking items to their minimum internal temperatures is a critical control point within the flow of food. Each food item has a designated minimum temperature that relates to the "kill" temperature of the pathogen most likely to be associated with that food. For example, salmonella is commonly associated with chicken. Salmonella can be destroyed by cooking the chicken to 165°F. Foods that are NOT cooked to these temperatures still carry a potential risk of causing a foodborne illness.

  4. Chill
    What do you do with leftover food items? Don’t throw that hot pot of chili into the refrigerator or freezer as your first step! This will heat up the overall temperature in those cooling units and put the other foods at risk. Instead, take a few minutes and break the food down into smaller portions – place in shallow pans and consider adding ice to other shallow pans that you can place underneath and/or stir food with a chill stick to cool rapidly. These quick steps will help you reach the first goal of the two-stage cooling process: chilling food to 70°F within two hours. The next stage is to ensure the food reaches less than 40°F within the next four hours. That can usually be accomplished in the cooler once you’ve completed the steps above. If that temperature is not reached in the designated amount of time, heat the food to 165°F and try again with a different cooling method.

Want more info? View our schedule of food service webinars and sign-up for our next food safety class.



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