We love September at Easy Ice! Not because the leaves are changing or the kids have returned to school, but because September is National Food Safety Month. If you’re in the foodservice business, food safety needs to be a top priority. If you allow your food safety focus to drift, your guests can end up sick, your reputation can be tarnished (think of all the Yelper’s who’d call you out for dirty conditions or unsafe food) plus the Health Inspector can fine you or temporarily close your restaurant.
Our friend, former Health Inspector Jim Chan, kindly provided us with some of the most disgusting photos he took of food safety fails while on the job. Jim is now an educator and consultant in Toronto and runs a popular blog, The Health Inspectors Notebook. If you ever have questions about food safety & sanitation, reach out to Jim on Twitter or Facebook and he’ll answer those burning questions around foodborne illness, cooked food and storage temperatures, rodents, pests and anything else you can think of involving keeping our food supply safe. You’ll find yourself laughing at “Ralphie the Rat’s” commentary and cartoons (artwork by Jim’s son, Chris). Food safety and sanitation is serious business, but even serious topics can be tackled with humor, and that’s what Jim does. It’s easier to catch flies with honey, right? (Or is it?? We’ll have to ask Jim.)
I’ve selected 5 of Jim’s photos to showcase what can go wrong from a food safety perspective in restaurants’ back-of-house. I have to be honest with you: I couldn’t bring myself to post some photos, as just looking at them made me gag! Can you say fecal-matter-covered-chicken??
Thanks, Jim, for permitting us to use your gross photos!
Food Safety Fail #1: Gross Refrigerator
This photo is like a Where’s Waldo book, except most of the sanitation hazards in this restaurant refrigerator are easy to spot! There are both raw and cooked items in here and none of them are covered. Cross-contamination! Did you notice the raw meat above cooked foods? Blood and meat juices can (and probably have) easily dripped onto ready-to-eat foods. Gross!
Another food safety violation that you can’t see in by just looking at this photo is the temperature of this refrigerator — it’s room temp because it’s broken, but still being used! So not only was this restaurant storing food products unsafely, the refrigerator wasn’t keeping them cold! Storing foods at improper temperatures is a rookie mistake. And a major health risk!
This is the trifecta of food safety fails all in one photo!
Storing food this way will definitely get a restaurant a warning or temporary shut down from the Health Inspector!
Food Safety Fail #2: Unsanitary Cooking Prep Area
Sure, it’s great to put ice under sauces and other perishables on your cook line, but there are a number of problems here. 1) The ice isn’t deep enough for the food in containers to stay cold. 2) None of these containers is covered. 3) Besides not being covered, the food product in the container is tilting — meaning spilling into the ice. 4) Spillage on ice thus contaminates the ice & makes this situation ripe for cross-contamination. 5) Cutting board appears filthy. Hard plastic cutting areas, especially those that are affixed, are difficult to thoroughly clean as bacteria can grow and congregate in the cuts made in the cutting board.
Food Safety Fail #3: Rodent Infestation – Dead Mouse + Droppings
Dead rodents… need I say more? The CDC lists 11 diseases that can be contracted by rodents and their droppings, including Hemorrhagic Fever & Salmonellosis. If a restaurant customer contracts one of these horrid diseases, your restaurant can look forward to being shut down.
Rodent hair and dander can also cause allergic reactions. According to one study, 25% of people have allergies to rodent dander and it’s also been found to be a cause of asthma. In the restaurant industry, Mickey Mouse is not your friend!
Mice & rats don’t just appear out of thin air — they need an entry to your restaurant. Fortify your kitchen by making sure all walls are sealed, including holes you may need for plumbing or electrical — make sure there is no wiggle room for any creatures to crawl through. Stuffing that extra space with a rag or foam won’t cut it. They’ll chew right through that in no time. Critters are attracted to food and it’s your job to keep them out or risk your business!
Food Safety Fail #4: Live Cockroach on Ready-to-Eat Food
Like rodents, if you spot one cockroach, there are many more of their friends lurking in your restaurant. Cockroaches are the most common pest problem in restaurant and home kitchens. They can easily contaminate food and play a role as carriers of intestinal issues. Do you really want your guests going home only to spend the next day (or week) glued to their toilet (and telling their friends about it)? Not cool for your reputation or your customers’ health!
Roaches and restaurants just don’t mix!
The best way to combat cockroach infestation is keeping your kitchen spotless and scheduling regular pest control visits. And if you spot just one of those creepy crawlies, call your local pest expert immediately!
Not sure how to maintain a spotless kitchen, check out our simple cleaning schedule. Stay ahead of the pests!
Food Safety Fail #5: Unsafe Ice
Ok, why in the world would a bowl of ice be kept in the walk-in? Your guess is as good as mine. Was this restaurant owner planning to use that ice in customers’ drinks? The ice is uncovered and next to raw meat. Bet you don’t want an icy margarita now, do you?
Ice must be stored in one and only one place: the ice bin. Unbeknownst to many people, ice can breed bacteria and foster food-borne illness just like food. The biggest cause of contaminated ice is not the ice machine, but human error (as you see in this photo). Ice needs to be stored in it’s sanitized bin until it’s needed. And nothing (and I mean Nothing!) should go in the ice bin except the ice coming out of the ice machine. Never leave an ice scoop in the ice bin! And the ice bin is Not the place to cool glasses or store sodas, beer or your leftovers.
Let’s hope you didn’t see anything familiar in these photos! If you did, you’re putting your customers and your reputation in danger. A smart practice is to routinely go through your restaurant as if you were the Health Inspector. Best to nip any food safety oversights in the bud rather than risk your livelihood!
Keep food safety as the main focus of your restaurant business to avoid penalties, closure, and illness. And keep those restaurant kitchens spotless, peeps!