When a foodborne illness outbreak happens, many restaurant owners and operators might ask themselves “what can I do so this doesn’t happen at my restaurant?” And while they may receive a variety of answers, or even be assured by some that something like this could never happen to them, there is only one answer to that question, and it is quite simple. Be prepared.
In the spirit of college basketball’s March Madness, your best defense against foodborne illness is a strong offense. For the food service industry, your best defense against a possible foodborne illness outbreak is taking a proactive approach and having a proper food safety program in place for your restaurant to help reduce your risk. It also means taking the time now to evaluate your current program and take a closer look at how you could enhance it, especially when you consider that, according to a recent survey, 74% of restaurant guests think fast food restaurants should monitor food safety more closely.
First and foremost, for any food safety program to be successful, the employees need to understand why food safety procedures are important. This means a focus on education and openly discussing the importance of food safety practices and addressing any concerns is a must.
The training needs to be engaging, and it is important to find new ways to introduce the basic concepts of food safety. For example, maybe it is time to refresh a hand hygiene video or make more of the training interactive. But what should you be teaching workers? The following are some key elements to have in place in your Food Safety Program:
- Have workers not come in while ill;
- Wash hands at key moments;
- Provide an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for guests to use when they enter the restaurant;
- Keep restrooms visibly and hygienically clean;
- Ensure that cold foods are kept below 41 degrees Fahrenheit and hot foods are kept at temperatures above 135 degrees Fahrenheit;
- Follow proper cooking instructions, for example make sure food is cooked to its recommended and safe internal temperature; and
- Implement processes to avoid cross contamination.
What other components have you included in your food safety program?