15 Food Safety Tips for Restaurateurs

By Casey Bean, Business Development Marketing Analyst

In the past month, high-profile, multi-state foodborne illness outbreaks have been linked to two common foods – eggs and lettuce. These highly publicized outbreaks are motivating restaurant owners and operators to review their current food safety protocols. Given the fact that “a single foodborne outbreak could cost a restaurant millions of dollars in lost revenue, fines, lawsuits, legal fees, insurance premium increases, inspection costs and staff retrainings,” we wanted to take this opportunity to share 15 tips to avoid a costly outbreak at your restaurant.1

1) Establish a culture of food safety.

Start at the top, with buy-in from leadership. When employees see management practicing proper food safety procedures, they witness the importance of following well-established food safety protocols.

2) Create a written preventative control plan.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires all restaurants to have a written preventative control plan that identifies food contamination hazards and preventative steps or controls for eliminating the risk of foodborne illness.

3) Train employees on identifying and eliminating hazards.

Employees need to be able to identify and eliminate sources of foodborne illness. The most common sources are food from unsafe sources, inadequate cooking, improper holding temperatures, contaminated equipment and poor personal hygiene.

4) Enforce proper hygiene requirements.

Employees should be required to wear clean uniforms each shift, keep their hair covered, and wash their hands often. Train employees on hand-washing techniques and post signs throughout the premises that reinforce proper hygiene.

5) Keep sinks separated based on their function.

Hand-washing sinks should not be located adjacent to sanitization sinks and food preparation areas. Food can easily be contaminated by wastewater from nearby hand-washing sinks and sanitization sinks.

6) Implement good housekeeping procedures.

Cleanliness is crucial for preventing foreign objects like hair and insects from contaminating food. Floors should be swept and mopped after each shift, garbage containers should be emptied frequently and sanitized, kitchen counters and walls should be cleaned frequently and tables should be wiped down after each use and the linens should be replaced.

7) Maintain the exterior of the building.

Building exteriors must be properly maintained to prevent rodents from entering the premises. Schedule a monthly pest control service and take precautions to prevent food and dishes from coming into contact with pesticides and other chemicals.

8) Maintain proper ventilation.

Ensure proper room temperatures and ventilation are maintained in all food preparation areas. The FDA requires that all vapors and fumes be vented outside. Kitchen hoods must be approved by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and provide the proper amount of exhaust recycling.

9) Check food shipments for quality.

Even though you may have a great relationship with your supplier, shipments should always be inspected for freshness and temperature upon arrival. Meat, poultry, and shellfish must be ice-packed and stored in vacuum packages at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or cooler in transit.

10) Take caution with unregulated suppliers.

Some small, local suppliers are not subject to new FDA regulations requiring written safety plans and tracking of food shipments. When dealing with unregulated suppliers, check what food safety measures they take when producing and shipping goods.

11) Use proper food controls.

Proper food storage and temperature control can prevent E. coli and salmonella, the two most common forms of food-borne illness, from spreading. Raw foods should be separated from other food items and stored in clean shelf space in the refrigerator. All meat, poultry, and eggs should be cooked thoroughly and should be delivered and stored at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below.

12) Use labels to track shelf life.

One common method in the restaurant industry for tracking food’s shelf life is the use of a color-coded date labeling system to ensure the proper rotation of food. Mark new, fresh products with a green sticker, label products that must be used within 24 hours with a yellow sticker, and mark items that should be used immediately with a red sticker. Products that have passed their expiration date should be discarded immediately.

13) Use labels to prevent cross-contamination.

Color-coding systems can also be used for food preparation. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for meat, vegetable, and dairy preparation distinguished by color. Separate raw food preparation areas from other food preparation areas.

14) Keep updated ingredients lists available.

Regularly update your ingredients list for each menu item and make them accessible to all employees electronically or in a binder. Reference your ingredients lists when serving customers with allergy or religious-based dietary restrictions to prevent an incident from occurring.

15) Prevent food spoilage in transit.

If your restaurant offers delivery or catering services, use temperature controlled cabinets and containers when delivering food. Instruct customers on how to properly reheat their food upon delivery to ensure it’s safe to eat.

  1. "A foodborne illness outbreak could cost a restaurant millions, study suggests." sciencedaily.comScienceDaily, 16 April 2018, Web. 08 May 2018.

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