September is National Food Safety Month
Important Food Safety Tips
September is National Food Safety Education Month. As a concession stand, food truck, or restaurant owner, you know the importance of food safety. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention estimate “that 1 in 6 Americans get sick from contaminated foods or beverages each year.” This September is the perfect time to evaluate your procedures.
In order to ensure proper food safety, there are four areas you and your staff can focus on: food preparation, food handling, cooking, and cleaning/sanitation. Here are some tips on how to succeed in proper food safety in each of those areas.
*Disclaimer: The following tips are only suggestions. Please contact your local and state Health Department for all requirements, procedures, and regulations.
- Tip 1: Manage and plan
- Plan your menu ahead so you know what foods you will be dealing with. Gather all necessary equipment needed to perform food preparation safely and correctly. Plan a training day for all employees and volunteers to learn how to prepare and handle food properly.
- Tip 2: Do not cross-contaminate
- Make sure you separate your foods when prepping to cook. Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can spread germs. In order to make sure cross-contamination doesn’t occur use separate cutting boards and plates for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Do this when refrigerating items as well. Keep raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs separate from other foods in the refrigerator.
- Tip 3: Avoid home preparation
- Do all your food preparation in one location to avoid possible contamination. If you prepare foods at home then bring them to the stand, it is possible that those foods could be contaminated along the way. Avoid at-home food preparation for all foods except baked goods such as brownies or cupcakes.
- Tip 1: Always wash your hands
- Food handlers should wash their hands with soap and warm water before, during, and after handling food. This is especially true after a potential contamination event. A potential contamination event includes going to the bathroom, sneezing or coughing, touching your face, touching uncooked meat, dumping the garbage, etc. When in doubt, always wash your hands if you think you have experienced possible contamination.
- Tip 2: Hand gloves are key
- Gloves should always be worn when handling food. They act as an additional barrier but don’t take the place of frequent hand washing. An employee should change their gloves at every hand washing or contamination. This is especially important when it comes to handling money. If a food handler touches the cash register or money it is crucial that they put new gloves on before handling food again.
- Tip 3: It is more than just a uniform.
- When handling food, proper clothing should be worn. This includes clean outer clothes and hats and hairnets. A clean uniform shows customers that their food is being cooked with hygiene in mind. Hats and hairnets keep hair from contacting exposed food, clean equipment, utensils, etc. They also keep employee’s hands out of their hair which helps prevent another contamination.
- Tip 1: Know proper temperatures to cook to
- Food must be safely cooked to a temperature high enough to kill germs that can cause sickness. Different foods have different temperatures that they must be cooked to. Check this chart from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to see what temperatures certain products should be cooked at. To tell if the food is cooked to a proper temperature use a food thermometer. You can not tell if food is safely cooked by checking its color and texture.
- Tip 2: Remember R & R: Refrigeration and Reheating
- To ensure food safety, it is important to refrigerate and reheat food properly. When refrigerating, the CDC suggests keeping your refrigerator below 40 degrees F. When thawing frozen foods, do so in the refrigerator, in cold water, or in the microwave. Never thaw foods on a counter because bacteria may multiply quickly in parts of the food that reach room temperature. Also, never leave perishable food out of the refrigerator for more than two hours.
- When reheating potentially hazardous foods, the CDC suggests reheating to 165 degrees F. Avoid using crock pots or steam tables when reheating because they may activate bacteria and may never reach 165 degrees F.
Cleaning and Sanitation
- Tip 1: Certain equipment and utensils are safer than others
- Be sure to choose the right equipment and utensils for your stand. Use plastic cutting boards instead of wood cutting boards because these boards tend to hold bacteria. For utensils, use disposable ones for foodservice whenever possible. This will help with the prevention of possible contamination and cut down on cleaning. Note that disposable products should not be cleaned or reused.
- Tip 2: Follow the four-stage washing process
- When washing your pots, pans, containers, utensils, etc. follow the four-stage washing process. First, wash the items in hot soapy water. Second, rinse them thoroughly in clean water. Third, sanitize the items with either heat or approved sanitizer chemicals. Finally, let all items air dry.
- Tip 3: Frequently wash and replace items
- Germs that cause food poisoning and can survive and spread in many areas in your concession stand. To combat these germs, constantly wash your utensils, cutting boards, and countertops. Remember to frequently wash and replace all cleaning items such as sponges, towels, washcloths, etc.
For more food safety tips check out the CDC website.