REVIEW SAFETY TIPS TO KEEP YOUR RESTAURANT HEALTHY
As an experienced operator, you’re likely an old hand at food safety. Just like with food, though, it’s best to stay fresh! Get safety front of mind with a quick stroll through the basics. Learn foods that can introduce danger, how to keep that danger in check, and how to safeguard your restaurant as a whole, with COVID precautions.
Foods to Watch Out For
While all foods can go bad, certain types are especially quick to spoil, and should stay under careful watch. Called time and temperature control (TCS) foods, these food types provide a welcoming home to bacteria, which can grow to unsafe levels if left for too long (over four hours) in a range of temperatures called “the danger zone” (40ºF – 140ºF). Meats — including beef, pork, chicken, fish, and shellfish — are the most obvious TCS foods. They’re joined by high-protein vegetables and vegetable products, which offer many of the same key nutrients to bacteria. We’re talking avocado, cooked rice and beans, tofu, and other alternative meats. Even if they lack protein, vegetables with a high water content can be a hazard, once they’ve been processed. Cut tomatoes and greens are the most common foods to watch out for, in this category.
Handle with Care
Now that you’ve reviewed the foods that are prone to dangerous bacterial growth, it’s time to make sure that doesn’t happen. Minding the danger zone is a good first step. Keep TCS food ingredients refrigerated or frozen. Once you’ve taken them out and combined them into a cold food item, watch the time, and don’t hesitate to retire that item after four hours. If you put TCS ingredients into a hot food item, keep that item above 140ºF until it’s time to serve. You can also reduce bacterial risk by limiting exposure in the first place. Whenever you’re switching away from TCS food prep, especially prep that includes meat, clean and sanitize your workspace. That means both wiping away debris and spraying on cleaning solution to kill bacteria. Also make sure to wash your hands! It’s a simple task, but it can do real work when it comes to preventing bacterial transfer between foods, from the bathroom, or from home.
COVID adds a new risk to restaurants — manage this non-food-related danger with a few sensible precautions. Have staff wear masks, and encourage mask use by patrons, to reduce rates of spread for the virus. Outdoor dining, if possible for your operation, is another excellent choice. Open-air settings make transmission much less likely, even without masks — an important factor, since diners will have to unmask for their meal. We’re entering Florida fall, too, so sitting outside in the cooling weather isn’t likely to be seen as a burden. As a final safety measure, consider requiring vaccination (or regular negative COVID tests) for your staff. CDC studies have shown the available vaccines to be safe and effective. Even against the Delta variant, which can sometimes break through the vaccine, they remain extremely good at preventing moderate and severe cases, the kind that can end in tragedy. Required vaccination is the strongest tool you have to protect your staff and customers. Just make sure you pair this policy with paid time off to get and recover from the shot, if you use it.
We hope this article has given you a useful safety review — but it’s not comprehensive. For a robust food safety training program, plus supplemental info on COVID, we encourage you to check out ServSafe (www.servsafe.com). Their program culminates in a test and certificate, which can be displayed to build customer trust, or used to comply with local regulations. Florida Food Service offers ServSafe instruction and testing throughout the year (www.ffsinc.com/servsafe). Contact us when you’re ready to earn or renew your certification.