Tips for restaurant owners, managers and food handlers
There are general food safety procedures that should be followed to help reduce the risk of contamination and mishandling at all levels of a food establishment. From the time the food is delivered to the minute it is served to the customer, food safety should be on the top of the list. Following these basic procedures can help keep food safe and prevent food borne illnesses.
Purchasing and receiving
All foods must come from an approved source. You should work with your supplier(s) to ensure the foods they are using meet the food safety standards.
When receiving a delivery, time and temperature should be of your biggest concerns. Foods MUST be received and stored as soon as possible. Staff members should be checking for temperatures and conditions of incoming foods.
All refrigerated foods should be put away quickly to prevent time and temperature abuse. Frozen foods should not have large ice crystals, be discolored or dried-out. Canned goods should have labels, no swelling and flawed seams, rust or dents. Never accept home-canned foods because of the risk of botulism.
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Proper Food Storage
It is important to store foods properly to prevent cross-contamination, food spoilage, and pest control issues.
Dry Goods Storage
All canned foods and dry ingredients must be stored in a designated area. This area should be well ventilated and pest free. Dry storage areas can become a food source for rodent and insects. Keeping containers closed, in good condition and off the floor help to keep the storage area pest free. Stock rotation is a good management practice.
Foods should never be stored in areas such as restrooms, furnace rooms, stairwells or hallways. Never store food products on the floor or near chemicals. Chemicals should be stored below and away from foods to prevent chemical contamination.
The walk-in refrigerator is the major cold storage area in a food service establishment. The temperature of a walk-in refrigerator must be sufficient to adequately hold the food temperature at 41°F or below. The temperature of a walk-in refrigerator is usually colder than 41°F to compensate for the opening and closing of doors and demands of adding additional foods for storage and cooling.
Foods need to be stored in a certain way in order to prevent cross contamination. All cooked foods and foods that will receive no further cooking should be stored above other foods. All raw proteins must be stored in a certain order as well. These foods are stored based on their minimum internal cooking temperatures to ensure that the majority of bacteria are killed during the cooking process.
Store foods in this order (from top shelf to bottom shelf):
- Ready to eat foods (fruits, vegetables, cooked items, etc)
- Raw seafood (fish, shrimp, shellfish, etc)
- Raw whole pork and beef (roasts, ribs, steaks, briskets, etc)
- Raw ground meats (beef, pork, turkey, etc) and eggs (pooled or shelled)
- Raw poultry and stuffed meats
Foods need to be stored to allow enough space for air to circulate around them.
Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria are transferred from one source to another. Most commonly, it is because of the way food is stored, transported, and the ways the food preparation areas are cleaned.
Bacteria can be transferred to food from utensils, surfaces (cutting boards), food workers hands, raw meats, poultry, fish and seafood.
To help prevent cross-contamination, raw meats, fish, and poultry must be kept away from cooked and ready-to-eat foods. (i.e. separate cutting boards, separation of duties, preparing vegetables before preparing meats.)
Employees can take precautions to prevent cross-contamination by minimizing bare hand contact with cooked and ready-to-eat foods, by storing food properly, and by making sure equipment, utensils and food contact surfaces are washed, rinsed and sanitized.
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As mentioned before, temperature is the key factor that controls the growth of bacteria in food. Many types of pathogens and spoilage bacteria are prevented from multiplying to significant levels that cause food borne illness with proper holding practices.
Room Temperature Storage
All foods need to be stored cold 41°F and below or hot 135°F or above. When food is held at room temperature, there are certain control measures that can be taken.
Control measure to ensure foods are out of temperature for very limited times include:
- Refrigerate foods before preparation.
- Prepare foods not further in advance than necessary.
- Prepare small batches of food and return them to the refrigerator before cooking and serving.
It is important to cook foods to the appropriate temperatures. The time needed to cook raw protein, specifically, is based on the pathogens and bacteria found in the food. The amount of heat required to kill the various bacteria depend on the species of microorganisms.
To kill all pathogens in foods, cooking must bring all parts of the food to required temperature for a correct length of time. It is important to remember that it does not matter what temperature the grill, stove, or oven is set to, the temperature that matters is the internal temperature of the food being cooked. You should insert a food thermometer into the middle (or thickest part) of the food in order to get an accurate internal temperature.
The following are the requirements for different foods:
- Hot holding of cooked food products - 135°F
- Beef, pork, fish, seafood, eggs - 145°F
- Ground or fabricated meat - 155°F
- Poultry, stuffed meats, casseroles, or re-heated foods - 165°F
Cold Holding of Food
Cold holding is storing food under refrigeration at 41°F or below. Refrigeration prevents food from becoming a hazard by slowing the growth of most bacteria.
Keeping foods cold does not stop the growth of bacteria, but it will slow it down. If you notice food that appears to have mold growth or smells off, discard it. A good motto to adopt in this instance is, “When in doubt, throw it out.”
Hot Holding of Foods
Once a food is heated or cooked, the food must be maintained at a temperature to limit the growth of bacteria. The correct hot holding temperature is 135°F. If the food falls below this temperature, it must be corrected within 2 hours or the food must be thrown out.
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Thawing, Cooling, and Reheating Foods
Thawing foods may take several hours or days depending on the size of the food item being thawed. Thawing must be done so that the risk of cross-contamination is reduced, and the time that potentially hazardous food is in the temperature danger zone (41°F to 140°F) is kept to minimum.
To thaw food safely:
- Thaw in the refrigerator – 41°F and below
- Under cold running water of 70ºF or less – food MUST be cooked immediately
- In a microwave – food MUST be cooked immediately
- During the cooking process.
Proper reheating can eliminate pathogens. Proper reheating temperature is 165°F within two hours.
The more a food is cooled and the reheated, the greater the risks. There is an increased risk from contamination caused by personnel, equipment, procedures and the fact that food will go through the danger zone several times which also increases the risk of bacteria growth causing food borne illnesses.
Cooling of Foods
When cooling foods, it is important to remember that time is of the essence. When food is cooled gradually or over an extended period of time, it allows bacteria the opportunity to grow. The ideal temperature for severe pathogen growth is between 80 - 120°F, but it is important to limit the time food is under 135°F and above 40°F.
The ideal way to cool foods quickly is to place the food in an ice water bath. Place the food in an uncovered container into a basin. Fill the basin around the food container and cover the ice with water. This allows a greater surface area for the ice water to cool. Once it reaches 41°F or below, you can cover the food and store for a longer period of time.
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Develop good serving procedures to protect food and customers.
- Employees should wash their hands after busing and cleaning tables and after touching any item that can contaminate their hands
- Avoid touching ready-to-eat foods with bare hands. Use a utensil such as a tong, deli tissue or gloves.
- Do not re-serve unwrapped bread, rolls, crackers, salad dressings, or relish trays.
- Avoid touching the food-contact surfaces of glasses, cups, plates or tableware.
Proper Glove Use
Using gloves DOES NOT replace the need for hand washing. You are to wash your hands properly before and after wearing gloves.
When using gloves, it is important to remember that you must change gloves when you change tasks and to use them for one task and one task only. You must discard gloves as soon as you remove them, DO NOT reuse gloves. Discard gloves when they become soiled or damaged.
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Hand Washing and Personal Hygiene
Good personal hygiene of each food service worker is important to good food handling practice. The following practices are important to protecting the food served by food service workers.
Improper hand washing is known to be the number one cause of food borne illness. Follow these steps when washing your hands:
- Wet hands with warm water
- Apply soap – without soap, washing your hands doesn’t accomplish much!
- Wash vigorously for at least 20 seconds – be sure to clean in between fingers and underneath nails; you should also wash up to your elbows if possible
- Rinse well – again, using warm water
- Dry with a paper towel – disposable towels work best, cloth towels have a tendency to harbor harmful bacteria, so drying with a cloth towel after washing hands can re-contaminate your hands.
- Turn off faucet and open the door with the paper towel – germs like to hide on faucets and door handles.
You should wash your hands BEFORE starting work and putting on gloves. You also should wash your hands AFTER:
- Using the restroom
- Sneezing or coughing
- Handling raw foods
- Taking breaks (eating, smoking, etc)
- Touching your face or hair
- Cleaning or sanitizing anything (including mopping the floor and wiping down counters)
- Taking out the garbage
- Touching anything else that might contaminate your hands.
All sinks have their own purpose; NEVER wash your hands in a sink designated for something other than hand washing.
Proper Handling of Ready-to-Eat Foods
It is also important to remember that food handlers are required to use utensils or wear gloves when handling ready-to-eat foods. There should NEVER be any bare hand contact of ready-to-eat foods.
Food handlers should never wear jewelry or watches (with the exception for plain wedding bands) and hair should be covered or pulled back.
Make sure to cover open cuts and burns with bandages or gloves. In addition, nails should be short, clean and unpolished.
Employee Health Guidelines
If a food worker is ill, they should not be preparing or handling food prepared for the public. The person in charge of the restaurant staff is responsible for recognizing disease that are transmitted through foods, inform employees of reporting requirements, restrict or exclude infected workers, and to notify the Health Department when an employee is diagnosed with a “Big Five” illness.
Diseases transmitted through foods – require a restriction of job duties
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting
- Discharges from the eyes, nose, & mouth
- Infected wounds or boils
- Sore throat with fever
- Bleeding from an injury or cut
The “Big Five” Illnesses –require a food worker to be excluded from work
- Salmonella Typhi
- E. Coli
- Hepatitis A Virus
Whenever a food worker experiences specific symptoms or illnesses, they MUST be reported to the food manager immediately. Depending on the type of illness, a restriction of duties or an exclusion from the workplace may be necessary to protect the public.
Information on other illnesses that can be spread person to persont through food may be found in the "Fact sheets" drop-down menu on the Food Protection Program Web page.
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