Impact of a Food Safety Training Program
What does a restaurant owner need to build a name and reputation and earn goodwill?
Service - yes
Good food - yes
But, perhaps the most important thing is serving hygienic and safe food. Therefore, a robust food safety training program such as HACCP is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of any food business, such as restaurants, food delivery chains, and manufacturers.
Food safety training programs have existed since the early 1950s. But, thanks to a pandemic that shook the globe, its importance is forever etched in our minds. Frequently washing or sanitizing our hands, social distancing, wearing masks, and many other covid appropriate protocols is now the new normal. Therefore, adhering to food safety guidelines is more important than ever for food business owners.
Why is Food Safety Training important?
A restaurant business's success depends on service, food quality, and overall hygiene and sanitation practices. Foodborne illnesses are pretty common. Guests getting infected after consuming your food will not only earn you slack but could also lead to the loss or closure of your restaurant.
In cooked and raw forms, food is highly perishable and prone to contamination. Consuming contaminated food has a direct impact on our health. In the food business, following food safety guidelines to protect customers' health is not a choice; it's a necessity. As a restaurant business owner, ensure all your employees enroll in a food safety training program.
Diarrheal diseases triggered by consuming contaminated food and water make up the list of top 10 reasons for death in the US as per the World Health Organization; need we say more!
Things to look for in a Food Safety Training Program
HACCP is the most widely accepted Food Safety program worldwide, but there are other programs too. Choose a program depending on the legal requirements and acceptability of a program in your area. However, whatever you choose, keep the following in mind.
Food Safety Guidelines
- Food Safety Knowledge: The program you choose should cover all food handling and safety aspects. This includes procedures on how to handle raw meat and poultry, wash produce, store and cook foods at the correct temperature, and everything in between.
- Certification: All food safety training programs should include a certification class or similar test so that employees can demonstrate their understanding of these guidelines in a practical environment.
- Food Handling Skills: The program should educate your staff on how to correctly handle food and equipment to avoid any unnecessary skin or body contact with food and food-related equipment. This solves two pain points: workplace accidents and food contamination. A few examples could be not touching the ice machine with bare hands or when the machine is in use, grabbing a pair of heat-resistant gloves to take out food from the oven, chopping vegetables, cooking food, and wearing appropriate safety equipment and gloves.
- Hazard Analysis: Lastly, the food safety practice program must include a basic hazard analysis module discussing statutory and legal requirements concerning food safety.
Sanitation and Cleaning Guidelines
The kitchen and food safety program must include detailed classroom and on-the-job training on ‘sanitation and cleaning.’ Exercising appropriate surface area sanitation and washing hands frequently is one of the most important steps in food safety. This segment educates employees on cleaning and sanitizing the kitchen and all food prep surfaces, what products to use, etc. Cleaning includes the removal of dirt, grime, or any food remnants, while sanitizing removes surface pathogens. Few basics of cleaning and sanitation:
- Wash your hands before meal prep, after using the restroom, after cleaning surfaces, mopping, touching any cleaning products, handling raw meat, touching door handles, cash books, bill books, etc.
- Clean surfaces and devices with warm soapy water before you start preparing food.
- Surface areas and devices must be cleaned and sanitized with a warm, soapy sprinkle before and after use.
- Always use a clean source of water.
- All locations associated with food and prep work should be bugs and insects-free.
Guidelines on Appropriately and Accurately Labelling Food Items
The food safety training program should have a module that explains the food labeling procedure and average shelf life of the most commonly used ingredients in the kitchen. For instance, powdered sugar and salt are food ingredients that look similar and can be confused for one another if not labeled. Imagine eating sweet pasta and a salty custard, naah!! Two things, the ingredient's name and ‘use by date’ should be clearly mentioned on all food supplies/reserves you have. Labeling on the ingredients should be clearly visible. Similarly, granulated sugar has a shelf life of about two years, whereas powdered sugar has a shelf life of about three months. A good food safety training program should therefore include detailed guides below tags.
- Ingredients name
- Date of manufacture / Expiry date
- When it arrived at the facility
Guidelines on Cleaning and Sanitizing Food Products
The food safety program should have detailed steps, protocols, statutory guidelines, and USDA recommendations with regard to washing and sanitizing food products. For example, the USDA recommends washing fruits, vegetables, and herbs in the cold and running tap water. A brush may also remove dirt from some fruits and vegetables. Avoid using soap to wash fruit or vegetables, as the liquid could seep into the food and cause harm. Wash and thoroughly sanitize all raw ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, poultry, rice, pulses, and raw meats before use. Regularly checking stored food items is another important recommendation by the USDA.
Guidelines on the Optimum Temperature for Storing Food
As iterated, all food items, whether cooked or raw, are highly perishable. Storing the food at an optimum temperature is extremely important to avoid contamination. The program should have detailed guidelines on how to store food. Things like raw meat, eggs, and dairy products, need to be stored at a specific temperature to prevent foodborne illnesses. Examples of a few guidelines:
- Glass jars containing food should be stored in a dry place, preferably one that is not exposed to extreme temperatures.
- The danger zone for food storage is between 40° and 140°F (4° and 60°C). Bacteria start growing rapidly at the given temperature and cause food to spoil over time.
Guidelines to Prevent Cross-contamination
The safety program should have clear guidelines on things such as color coding for food storage, utensils to be used for prepping different types of foods, color coding for chopping boards, etc. These are all ways to curb cross-contamination and keep the workspace more organized. An example could be red boards for cooked foods, green for raw vegetables and fruits, and blue for meats.
Guidelines on Equipment Maintenance
The training program must educate the staff on how to maintain kitchen equipment, standard cleaning and inspection schedules, cleaning agents for upkeep, etc.
Food safety is an indispensable part of a restaurant or any food business. Proper food safety training and getting yourself and all your employees certified in a food safety program indicates your commitment to your business and shows your responsibility and empathy towards your customers and society at large.