There are laws and systems that have been established to help ensure that the food served in restaurants is safe. Bacteria grow very easily if given the chance so make sure you follow regulations to prevent the spread of disease.
The local health department in your area will send out inspectors to make sure that the chefs and servers are following the proper guidelines. Inspectors will issue fines for minor violations and can shut you down for major violations.
The health department will then work with you to establish the correct systems and practices. The inspectors usually show up unannounced so they can see what a normal day is like.
Most of the regulations have important ramifications for keeping food clean and safe. A system Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point consists of seven important steps to ensure safety.
The three main elements of the system are microbiology, quality control, and risk assessment. You first assess hazards and potential risks, then identify critical control points including cross contamination, cooking, cooling, and hygiene.
You then set up procedures to make sure safety is maintained at all critical control points. Monitor critical control points and use the correct signs, tools, and training materials to ensure this.
Take corrective actions as soon as a critical control point is in jeopardy or when any violations are pointed out by the health department. Set up a record-keeping system to log all of your flowcharts and temperature checks and keep up with the system to make sure it is working.
Each item served in your restaurant will need its own flow chart, which looks at every step of the food’s journey from being received into the restaurant from a purveyor to being served to a customer. The steps in between include storage, preparation, holding/display, service, cooling, storing leftovers, and reheating techniques.
There are many safety procedures to follow when preparing food in your restaurant. One of the most important is to thaw frozen items properly.
You can cook food from its frozen state or by refrigerating it at less than 38 degrees F. You may also thaw under running water at a temperature of 70 degrees F. or below for up to two hours.
A microwave is another acceptable way to thaw items, but only if the entire cooking period will be in the microwave or the food will be finished by another cooking method. Things like meats and poultry must be cooked to the correct internal temperatures.
Thermometers are the best way to ensure accuracy of these temps. Cross contamination is all too common in kitchens today so be sure to clean and sanitize any equipment used to prepare food between uses.
This is especially important when handling a potentially harmful item such as raw poultry, beef, or fish. There is a “danger zone” of temperature, 40 degrees F. to 140 degrees F., within which bacteria multiply rapidly and can thrive.
The temperature should be kept out of this zone as much as possible. The limit for time spent in the danger zone including all aspects of storage, preparation and service is four hours.
Storage is another way to protect your food from becoming contaminated or spoiled. Use the “first in, first out” rule; meaning that foods should be used in the order they are delivered.
For instance, do not use the newest milk first if you still have two gallons that are good from your last delivery. Date goods and place the new behind the old on your storage shelves.
Keep all foods wrapped and clean. Each item in your walk-in refrigerator, freezer and your dry storage should be in a sealed labeled container or package with the contents and date received.
Go through your refrigerator unit regularly and get rid of spoiled items. The refrigerator temperature must be below 38 degrees F and keep a working thermometer in the unit at all times so you will know at a glance if there is a problem.
Freezers should keep foods at below 0 degrees F. Most items will not maintain their quality in a freezer so it should be used only as needed.
Use fresh products whenever possible. Items in dry storage should be kept between 50 – 70 degrees F with a relative humidity of 50 – 60 percent.