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Clean, Separate, Cook, Chill: Eight Steps to Preventing Foodborne Illnesses

foodborne illnessThere has been a lot of talk in the news lately about foodborne illnesses and food recalls after cases of salmonella and E. coli began popping up nationwide. Foodborne illnesses are among the biggest concerns in the foodservice industry. It only takes one person getting sick to negatively impact your entire business. I previously wrote about how cleaning prevents foodborne illnesses and how to avoid cross-contamination. However, with recent outbreaks affecting everything from peanuts to county fairs, it’s worth taking another look at steps you can take to keep your customers safe.

The US Department of Agriculture uses four steps to prevent foodborne illnesses as part of its “Be Food Safe” campaign: Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill. These steps are also beneficial and important when cooking at home, not just for restaurants.

  • Clean: Wash hands and surfaces oftenhandwashing with soap
  • Separate: Don’t cross-contaminate
  • Cook: Cook to the proper temperature
  • Chill: refrigerate properly

Those are the basic elements of preventing foodborne illnesses in your restaurant. We wanted to elaborate on some of the steps you can take at home or in a restaurant to keep your food safe.

  1. Wash hands with warm soapy water for a minimum of 20 seconds. Use a brush to get under your nails.
  2. IMG_0632Use paper towels to dry your hands, not electric dryers.
  3. Always wear clean, disposable gloves during food prep and change them between tasks.
  4. Thoroughly wash and sanitize all surfaces that come into contact with raw meat, poultry, fish and eggs before using them for anything else.
  5. Keep utensils and platters used for raw foods separate from what you use for the cooked product. Bacteria in the juices from raw meat can contaminate safely cooked foods.
  6. Make sure keep your sanitizing solution at the proper level and use clean towels and wipes on tables, counters and other surfaces.
  7. Separate dirty and clean towels in clearly labeled pails to prevent them from getting mixed accidentally.
  8. When in doubt, clean it. If you are not sure when something was last clean or the type of food it last touched, you’re better off cleaning it again as a safety precaution. When it comes to foodborne illnesses, you can never be too safe.

Once food comes through your doors, you are responsible for proper handling. Continually educating your employees on proper food safety and cleaning techniques will only make your restaurant (or home) safer for everyone.

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