How to make the health inspector happy
Common Health Code Violations and how to Avoid them in Your Restaurant
Time and temperature
Both temperature and time are important factors in determining safety in your kitchen. A simple, effective way to prevent food-borne diseases and keep inspectors happy is to keep food at the right temperature for as long as possible.
The temperature and type of food is usually what determines the time and temperature precautions. Although mayonnaise can be stored at room temperature for several hours, it is still safe to eat. Anyone who ingests it can become sick. Mayo can last for months if it is kept at room temperature in a fridge.
When food is in the temperature danger zone, it can be dangerous. This industry term refers food temperatures between 40deg F to 140deg F, which is prime time for bacteria growth. The higher the risk of food becoming unsafe, the longer it sits within this range.
How to keep food from being in danger.
Here are some temperature and time recommendations to ensure food safety.
- Cooked food should be kept hot at 140°F or more by using chafing dishes and preheated steam table, warming trays and slow cookers.
- Use containers made of ice to keep cold food at or below 40°F.
- Keep temperature logs. You should check the temperature logs twice or three times per hour to ensure that food products are at the right temperature.
- Cool cooked food immediately and then store it in shallow containers. Within two hours, place in the refrigerator at 40°F.
Reheat food thoroughly before serving. Check the internal temperature of food before you consume it.
Inadvertent cross-contamination caused by poor inventory storage is a major cause of food-borne illness. This is most commonly seen when juices are dripped onto other foods.
Here’s one example: Chicken juices can drip onto beef when it is stored. Beef won’t likely be cooked at high enough temperatures to kill chicken bacteria. This is because raw chicken must reach a minimum safe temperature of 165°F while beef can be reached at 145°F.
How to properly store food so as to avoid cross-contamination
To avoid cross-contamination, you should consider a safer storage system
- Raw Vegetables
- Cooked Vegetables
- Cooked Meats
- Cooked seafood
- Raw Seafood
- Raw Beef
- Raw Pork
- Raw Chicken
To ensure products are stored in the correct places, have your team conduct cold storage inspections at night.
Like storage, bacteria can transfer from one food item or another through mishandling.
If a chef grabs a raw hamburger and puts it on the barbecue, but they don’t wash their hands after grabbing a bun for it, there’s a good chance that bacteria from that burger is on the bun. It’s not safe to serve your guests.
Cross-contamination is a common problem for cooks and staff back-of house. They are taught how to switch out cutting boards, wash hands when handling meat or vegetables, and other such tactics. You have to pay attention to the less obvious cases.
How to train your team so that cross-contamination is avoided
ServSafe certification is a good starting standard for kitchen workers and cooks. ServSafe is the industry standard to train restaurant workers in safe food handling.
Hand washing stations should be installed at all restaurants. Make sure to train your employees on the proper way to wash their hands. Employees must wash hands after using the restroom, touching their faces or hair, and after eating or drinking.
Your team should be taught how to use specific utensils, such as color-coded cutting boards, to prepare for every food item.
Hygiene for the Personal
It is quite shocking to see how much bacteria we are exposed daily. It is your responsibility to keep your restaurant’s food preparation areas clean and safe. Take care of your guests and staff by being aware of what and who is coming into your kitchen.
Hepatitis is a common infection spread by contact with bodily fluids. In recent years, hepatitis A has been the subject of headlines all over the country. One word of caution. A quick hand washing won’t do the job. Bacteria can live under your nails, or higher up in your arms. It can even spread from one person to another. Staff should be encouraged to immunize themselves against hepatitis A.
How to encourage hygiene in the restaurant
Employers should ensure that employees wash their hands with antibacterial soap, hot water, and scrub for twenty seconds. Singing the happy birthday song twice a day is a great way to ensure that you scrub for the correct amount of time.
This applies to when employees arrive at work, before handling food, after using the toilet, and for any time they will be handling other food items. It’s possible that an employee will wonder if they should wash the hands at all.
You can also make sure your back-of house employees wear clean, washed clothes daily. To reduce the risk of external contaminants, your employees should change into uniforms when they arrive at your restaurant.
If employees are sick, it can be a problem with their personal hygiene or health. Although you may not have enough staff to cover a shift, it is better to let employees stay at home than spreading illness among your guests or team members.
Chemical Storage and Usage
Look closely at what cleaning products are being used in the kitchen and how effective they have been. Too often, staff in restaurants aren’t well-trained on how, when, and where to use cleaning chemicals.
Important distinction: Clean is different from sanitized. A clean surface is one that’s free from dirt and crumbs. It doesn’t always have to be clean. It’s possible that raw chicken was present on the surface in a matter of seconds.
Sanitized is a surface that has been cleaned of 99.9% of the bacteria. (It’s nearly impossible to get the last 00.1%). True sanitation requires the use of the right chemicals and the right processes.
How to teach your staff how to use cleaning products safely, effectively, and efficiently.
You should make sure that your back-of house team is able to properly clean and disinfect their work areas. This goes beyond surface cleaning.
A meeting with your cleaning supply vendor can be arranged to hold mandatory training sessions with your employees. Once the training is complete, give your team detailed documentation. Then test everyone on the information once every quarter.
The Most Common (but Not as Important) Health Code Violations. How to Avoid These in Your Restaurant
While these items on the checklist are not likely to cause you failure, they can still reduce your score and place your guests at risk. Nobody wants that.
Back of House Serviceware
You must ensure that you keep tongs, spoons, and other utensils in a water temperature of at least 165 degrees F. Mixing utensils that are meant for raw proteins such as chicken or beef with ready to eat food like lettuce and tomatoes is not a good idea.
Storage and handling silverware and glassware
Your back-of house team should keep all silverware covered. Plates and glasses must be kept upside down. You should avoid touching stored silverware and glassesware by your staff.
Do not load silverware in a dishwasher without handling it. Only touch the handle when bringing silverware to guests.
Be sure to touch only the stem when you are grabbing glasses. Take care to not touch the rim of plates. This rule can also be applied when your front-of–house staff deliver drinks. It is important that glasses are held at the bottom of the glass and not near the top, rim or where guests might place their mouths.
Keep two types of buckets at each kitchen station: red and green. Here’s a quick summary of the colors that have become industry standard.
Use red buckets for cleaning. The green buckets can be used to clean with soap. Cleanse any crumbs or other debris with the soapy water of the green buckets. Next, rinse off the solution from red buckets. You can easily distinguish the differences by using the colors. Health inspectors love to see the right buckets filled with the right cleaning products. Make sure your team is well-informed.
Make sure you have a towel and the solution handy so that your team can clean and disinfect any bucket at any moment. Your team should change the water and cleaning solution every four hours or whenever they are visible dirtied.
Gloves are controversial. Some people love gloves, while others hate them. Many people think they add an extra layer to protection and cleanliness. Others don’t like having to put on and take off gloves so often.
The problem is that gloves can give you a false sense security. All members of your team should treat their hands the same regardless of whether gloves are on or off. They still need to wash their hands after putting gloves on.
Gloves cannot be washed between projects. Employees must take off their gloves and wash them again before putting on new gloves.