The Iceologist is proud to welcome a new guest blogger to our team, Scott Pozna, Registered Sanitarian and Environmental Health Specialist or Lorain County, OH. Scott has been a Registered Sanitarian (Health Inspector) for 20 years and we’re thrilled he’s sharing his knowledge with our customers and readers. By following Scott’s simple advice, your restaurant or foodservice operation can avoid a poor health inspection and/or fines. Take it away, Scott!
Restaurant Health Inspections – Avoid being reported!
When a Health Inspector arrives at a Food Service Operation for an Inspection, food service employees often react by grabbing a wiping towel (hopefully being stored in a bucket of sanitizing solution) and cleaning the closest food contact surface within their reach. The truth is that you really can’t “react” to a food safety inspection by your health department.
Today’s food safety inspection focuses primarily on those critical items & processes which have been shown to contribute to food borne illness, and as a result, a food service operation either does, or doesn’t, have sufficient systems in place to address these critical items. By addressing internal food temperatures, sanitizing concentrations & frequencies, and protecting food from contamination, a food service operation can greatly reduce the number of critical violations on their food safety inspection report and the avoid the potential for a food borne illness.
IT’S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER – GOOD QUALITY CONTROL IS THE KEY TO A SAFE KITCHEN!
Areas of concern for Health Inspectors:
Maintaining proper internal food temperatures is the cornerstone of a safe kitchen. In the fast paced atmosphere of a busy kitchen, food employees will often neglect to monitor internal food temperatures, or even the ambient temperatures in refrigeration and hot holding units. Temperature monitoring doesn’t have to be a complicated or time consuming process. Simply using your stem thermometer and writing down the date, time, food item, temperature, and employee’s initials is sufficient. Taking a few minutes during the day to monitor the food temperatures within your kitchen could save you a lot of money in discarded product and possibly prevent a food borne illness.
Sanitizing of food contact surfaces is also of utmost importance in protecting food from unwanted bacteria and viruses. Any surface that comes in contact with a food product such as table tops, cutting boards, food utensils, ice bins, etc., must be cleaned and sanitized to avoid potential contamination. In addition to sanitizing food contact surfaces, food must be protected from other sources of contamination. Although there are many ways food can become contaminated, but probably the most frequent violation on food safety inspection reports would be food employees handling ready to eat (RTE) food items with their bare hands. In the rush to get food plated and out to the customer, even kitchens following the strictest sanitary procedures will often be found guilty of bare hand contact with RTE foods (lettuce, tomato, onions, etc.). Food service operations also need to be aware of how food products are being stored in their facility to minimize the risk of contamination.
Refrigeration units in which raw animal foods have been placed above, or alongside, RTE food items greatly increase the likelihood of cross contamination. Keeping raw animal foods stored below, or separate from, RTE foods will dramatically reduce this risk. Storing cases of food directly on the floor is another common practice at some food service operations. Keeping all food items stored on shelving above the floor will avoid the food being exposed to potential contaminates. A well-organized system of dry, refrigerated, and frozen food storage will greatly aide in the protection of food items from potential contaminates within a food service operation. By implementing policies and procedures which address these critical issues, food service operations can both reduce the number of critical violations on their food safety inspection, and minimize the likelihood of causing a food borne illness.