As I travel around the industry – I’m keenly aware of the food safety image that my clients and other operators project. It’s this simple – if you’ve got a hand washing sink right behind you on a prep line that customers can see – USE IT! Frequently!

September is National Food Safety Month. At ServSafe – this is our month in the industry. We have dedicated an entire website just to this cause. National Food Safety Month has information, activities and ways to enhance your food safety program as part of an overall customer service strategy.

With that in mind – it is the perfect time to address the ESSENTIALS of food safety – supported by activities you’ll find at the National Food Safety Month website .

Personal Hygiene Rules

Poor personal hygiene is the #1 cause of foodborne illness. Refer to the opening paragraph. Wash your hands! Frequently. Properly. Using soap and 100F (or higher) water.

Time-Temperature Control is Critical for Food Safety

food safety, illness, sanitation

Courtesy of former Restaurant Inspector, Jim Chan

Respecting and obeying the Temperature Danger Zone (41-135F) is paramount. Knowing that illness causing bacteria grows most quickly from 75 – 125F is also important. Receive at proper temps (41 or below best – 45F allowed on some items as long as they are cooled to 41F properly). Know the two-stage cooling process. Know how many days you can store food prepared on site and served later. And so forth – and so on.

Cleaning and Sanitizing

Goes without saying – keep it clean. Utilizing the right detergents, proper water temperature and knowing how to correctly sanitize all work together. Wiping it down doesn’t matter. Remember – cleaning removes the “spooge” (all that crusted on stuff that who knows where it comes from). Sanitizing means killing pathogens, critters, whatever you want to call the illness causing organisms that QUATs, Chlorine, Iodine and now Ozonated Water can kill dead, done gone – or at least lower to acceptable levels.

Cross-Contamination

It can happen multiple times – each and every day. Obviously – we all know the classic “lettuce after the chicken” on the cutting board scenario. Exam all your products and procedures – and figure out how to create additional “physical” and “procedural” barriers to ensure that cross contamination is not just controlled – but eliminated.

Allergens

Despite the fact that only 4-6% of the US population is affected by severe food allergies – it is a weighted topic since those affected are someone’s child, mom, bro, sis, close friend – and so on. Not to mention – folks do die and thousands become sick. The key – creating a business opportunity by being allergen aware/friendly – so that when those 15 million Americans with severe food allergens look to take 2 friends out to eat – they’ll be comfortable choosing you. When you do the math – that’s a business opportunity for 45 million diners. Trust me – “momma bears” won’t take chances with their “cubs”. Seize the opportunity. Learn to become allergen friendly so that sites like this one – Allergy Eats – want you on their list!

Activities for all five areas above can be found on the NFSM website, NSFM Activities . They can be used year around to reinforce the basics of food safety and sanitation.

Embrace the 5 foundation topics of food safety – and get your managers and staff trained and certified as you can. The “investment” in this will pay dividends with a more positive customer experience – and health inspections become “affirmations” not “aggravations”.

That’s it for this time – off to keep leading the charge for the #1 rule in the foodservice industry – it has to be safe.