What beats a rich, creamy, steaming bowl of tomato soup on a cold winter day? Would the romanticism of this vision be destroyed if you knew that tomatoes are on the FDA’s list of hazardous foods? According to the FDA, from 1996 to 2008 1,927 illnesses and 3 deaths can be blamed on tomatoes. All fresh fruits and vegetables can be seen as food safety risks, especially since they are often eaten raw. Restaurant food safety is a huge issue for food businesses, since dealing with high quantities of various ingredients can raise the chances of contamination. By knowing the risk-factors and taking initiative to prevent them, businesses can lower the chances of crossing restaurant food safety recommendations and raising risks.
Restaurant Staff Education
Restaurant staff holds a huge weight of responsibility when it comes to restaurant food safety. Most of the time, high temperatures used as how to cook raw ingredients kill most of the harmful bacteria. One of the largest issues arises when dealing with produce, since it is often served raw as salads, or lightly cooked (sautéed, blanched, etc), not allowing it to get to those target temperatures. Someone who knows how to cook will not necessarily know all the food safety risks involved with improper handling of fruits and vegetables. Therefore, restaurant staff should be trained to maintain high levels of sanitation in the kitchen, proper washing of the produce and the produce holding equipment, frequent hand washing, and proper produce handling and inspection.
A recent study by the Environmental Health Specialists Network revealed that 20% of restaurant staff who deal with food reported having worked a shift in the past year when sick with vomiting or diarrhea, symptoms of foodborne illness. Any sickness in the kitchen is problematic, since bacteria can cause airborne infection through coughing or sneezing. Sometimes this will have no negative effects, since the bacteria may be killed off with high temperatures, however, where fruits and vegetables are concerned, sick restaurant staff can be a major source of elevated food risks. Therefore, employers should stress the importance of taking sick day in the event of illness.
Restaurant staff should also be informed to keep the kitchen area as clean as possible, with thorough commercial kitchen appliances cleaning at least once every couple of weeks, and efficient overall cleaning of the venue, each night before closing time. Restaurant staff uniforms should be clean at all times as well. Commercial kitchen appliances should be checked frequently to ensure that temperatures and cleanliness are according to recommendations. A study by the center for disease control and prevention found that over 50% of leafy greens temperatures upon delivery were above FDA-recommendations of 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Similar statistics were observed with tomatoes as well. Managers should be firm about the delivery conditions they expect from suppliers, and not be hesitant to refuse substandard supply. Once the supplies are received, they should be kept in a separate refrigerator before washing to prevent contaminating other ingredients. Another issue with tomatoes that arose in the study was the washing procedure. In 82% of the observations, tomatoes were washed in stagnant water, against FDA recommendations. Running water is the best for flushing out bacteria. For cutting the produce, separate cutting boards should be used for produce and raw meats, poultry, and fish to prevent cross-contamination.
The advice on how to cook, clean, and run a restaurant kitchen to maximize restaurant food safety has inspired books upon books to be written. By using strong organization to keep fresh produce away from possible contaminants, and reading multiple lists of tips on food safety, food businesses can minimize the risks that produce food safety will be an issue in their venue.