With contaminated food making headlines year after year, it is important for food service operations in schools, healthcare and residential facilities to take the proper precautions to ensure food safety for high-risk populations.
And while no system is absolutely foolproof, there are tried and true measures that can greatly reduce the risk of exposing your consumers from risk.
Food Safety Education for Your Staff and Customers
Food safety begins with educating your staff as well as your customers. For your staff, this includes remaining informed with resources that are reliably kept up-to-date. Subscribe to daily emails, alerts or use food safety apps to stay informed on recent food recalls, proper food handling tips and food poisoning education.
Be proactive and inform your customers. Keep accurate records of recipe ingredients and label your menu or buffet items that have common allergens such as peanut butter, tree nuts, dairy or wheat.
Supervise Food Donations and Off-Site Catering Services
Many non-profit organizations and community programs accept donated food or food that was prepared by a caterer off-site. If your food service operation accepts food that was not prepared in your facility, create a list of guidelines and remain adamant that every item can meet these requirements before accepting donations or catering services.
- Require a temperature log to be kept from the time of preparation, during delivery and when the food is accepted.
- Keep your staff informed on food safety temperatures and the danger zones.
- Display food safety information in areas where the food is received or prepared.
- Supply your staff with the proper temperature-taking tools, such as probe thermometers. Never accept potentially hazardous food.
Maintain Clean Food Service Equipment
Food safety for high-risk populations involves preventing cross-contamination. Food service equipment becomes a source of cross-contamination when it is not cleaned properly. Keep your equipment bacteria-free with these steps:
- Take the time to sanitize and clean food service equipment multiple times every day.
- Look for and repair any broken components in your equipment such as seals and gaskets.
- Discontinue use for any piece of equipment that cannot pass your inspection.
- Stay on target with the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule.
Store Food Properly
Avoid cross-contamination with proper food storage. Basic food safety standards call for using labels on all stored food products and implementing the FIFO rule: first in, first out. Your food service operation can add to this basic practice with the following:
- Store raw and ready-to-eat food products separately.
- Ensure all containers are sealed tight, particularly containers storing raw food.
- Place raw food on bottom shelves or below food that is ready-to-eat.
Keep Prepared Foods Separated
When serving a high-risk population, it is imperative to keep cutting board safety in mind. Never re-use cutting boards after chopping poultry or meat. Instruct your kitchen staff to thoroughly wash each cutting board after every use.
Include these steps for safe food preparation:
- Keep all surfaces clean and sanitized before and after preparing separate menu items.
- Use color-coded cutting boards for each food type.
- Clean, sanitize and separate all cooking utensils that are used for food prep.
And remember, stay informed! The best way to prevent food-borne illness is to remain up-to-date on the latest food safety news, guidelines and tactics.