Minimize Foodborne Illness Risks

Commercial Kitchen Inspection Logs - Texas Restaurant SupplyThe latest round of illness from food in Texas has had a profound effect and wake up call for many plants that manufacture food products. This scenario has also had a two fold cause and effect on many other companies. First, and most importantly, those in violation must clean up and institute better policies for testing and production. Secondly, it is well known that the FDA is getting tougher when it comes to health inspections. Texas Restaurant Supply here in Houston wants to make sure you have preventive controls in place. Food Safety and Proper Inspection do go hand in hand.

As you are well aware, if you own outright the restaurant facility or are part of a national chain, compliance with food safety regulations have tightened across the nation. Reactive response to violations is really not the best rule of thumb to follow where food safety is concerned. As a restaurant operator the Food and Drug Administration is now insisting that you must become ongoing and proactive. Prevention is the watchword of the day.  The FDA wants you to do all you can to prevent food safety issues.

Stringent regulations from the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) expands the agency’s powers over food safety issues. The major goal of FSMA is to prevent foodborne illness. Regulations within FSMA are designed to steer all segments of the food industry into adopting preventive controls. You need to review the latest regs for your restaurant facility, and what is required by the manufacturers to maintain the integrity of your current and future restaurant equipment purchases.

When a health department official comes into your facility for an inspection, not only will the examine your physical structure, but they will also see if you have proper procedures in place to prevent foodborne illness. Prevention is more commonly referred to as HACCP—Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point. In many cities proper Code Compliance is required, and the restaurant can now be penalized if it appears a procedure you’re doing might lead to a problem, even if the inspector does not witness the problem during a visit.

Minimize Food Borne Illness Risks

To reduce and minimize the risk of a food safety problem in your facility, and to pass an inspection, one of the most important procedures you need to have in place is a structured self-audit program. A program that allows you to monitor and evaluate your own food safety, cleaning and sanitation procedures. We only need think of Blue Bell to realize what this means here in Texas. Even with recognized approved testing, risk may not be minimized.  Even if you have a formal third-party audit program, nothing can replace the importance of a regular self-audit. Accepting this responsibility now means less expenses later.

The single most important benefit from implementation of a program like this, is a  health department inspector takes a snapshot of your operation once or twice a year, and a third-party audit company, if you are using one, is doing a more detailed, objective and valued examination on a quarterly or monthly basis. On the other hand, you and your staff are in your restaurant on a daily basis. You are the key to compliance, prevention and continuous improvement.

Texas Restaurant Supply in Houston,  Dallas, and Irving; wants to suggest some options and basics of a self-audit program. While the following list may not be all-inclusive or as complete as your location requires, we believe that this is a great place to start. Keep in mind adjustments and intensity of the self-audit may vary based on what your cleaning and sanitizing program may need to have. Thinking in terms of a master audit schedule; which once implemented is very easy if you break it down to what is needed to be done daily, weekly, monthly and with  quarterly updates.

Self Audit Basics

Maintain A Positive Attitude -  Recognize the importance of a food safety program that prevents foodborne illness is first on the list. Companies with food service and food preparation must not conduct an effective self-audit with a lazy or blind eye. There should never be an area the inspector can't see (i.e."You can’t look in there."). Making sure locked doors and storage areas, panels under dish machines, grates, or enclosed pipes are areas of sanitation focus means violations would never be a problem.

Support Of Team members - Regular inspection by all team members insures no missed areas are possible. Texas Restaurant Supply understands from experience that one person looking at the same conditions day after day will losetheir eye for detail and miss things. This alone is why periodic third-party audits help. Making sure these are always in the budget means saving money later.  Education about food safety in general, proper ceaning and sanitation for your physical facility, and proper storage are all issues that can be maintained long before the next inspection.

Proper Document Review - Implementing proper food safety while cooking, if you fail to maintain temperature logs, production logs, par-cooking logs and the like, you may not have what you need to protect your procedures currently in place. No documention means it didn't happen as far as an inspector is concerned. Remember false filling in a log is a serious vioation as well and many cities have fines in place for those types of violations.

Keep All Checklists Handy -  Whether you’ve adopted a checklist used by the health department, a third-party audit company or one you created yourself, remember that it must be based on the FDA Food Code or one from your local regulatory authority. The best rule of thumb to avoid a violation is keep stricter standards in place across the board. Make sure staff is aware of any changes that may result in new rules and regulations at food safety meetings.

Maintain A Physical Inspection -  If there has been a problem, such as drain flies, roaches, debris, or mold, spend a little more time in each of those areas regularily so there won't be a problem the day of an unscheduled inspection.

Stay Observant - Review of video, photos, observing food handlers performing their job during a rush periods, and a monitor  to see if procedures are being properly followed is always a great idea to help keep your staff alert to what is expected.

Proper Documentation For Everything -  Take notes, record temperatures, take pictures, record observations, have regular food safety meetings and frequent ongoing education to new ways to do things and proper techniques and equipment to make it happen should be the norm; not the exception.

Frequent Review and analysis -  All information you gather will be meaningless unless you take appropriate corrective action for noncompliance issues and/or follow up on opportunities for improvement and training. That is a given. Remember there are very inexpensive programs available that can create a database which will allow proper evaluation of the data you obtain and this is very valuable to begin to see challenges in particular areas, help to identify trends and problems that keep hapening.

The Right Equipment & Tools - All kitchen staff, especially your chefs, sous chefs or line cooks cannot be expected to perform their job properly without the proper tools for the job. Consider this attitude for the self audit staff as well. Keeping the basics in place at all times is a must. Here is a quick checklist you may keep posted in a visible location, present with each staff meeting, and include with additions of new policy in paychecks.

Kitchen Food & Safety Basics Include:

  • Head covering for all kitchen staff
  • Slip-resistant shoes approved by the company
  • Properly calibrated thermometers for each station. It must be water resistant, fast and won’t stab you as you move through the kitchen
  • Alcohol swabs or wipes to clean and sanitize that thermometer after every use
  • Knee pads. Low-profile knee pads worn under your pants will protect your knees and allow you to look at places like under the cooks' line if you are on the inspection staff for audit
  • Clipboards, pads and retracting pens or tablets are easy to use. If you are using a tablet, there are harnesses available that allow the tablet to hang from your neck, leaving your hands free if you need to use both hands for something else
  • Have A Flashlight. A small flashlight that's as bright as a car headlight and easily clips into a shirt pocket. LED's are great
  • Extending mirror. A quicklook under the lip of a counter or prep table can be very helpful
  • Keep A Screwdriver and pliers Handy. Open all panels, floor drains, and filters to insure there are no issues.
  • Camera. Tablets and Videos are Easy To Use - The use smartphones and digital cameras can capture images in your staffed areas. Remember, this is not about catching someone or punishing someone. This is for learning, training and educating purposes.
  • Employee Packs Are A Must - Keeping a way for your staff to hold all these items is to your advantage. Loss prevention is kept in check, and if you monitor them weekly and replace challenges with the equipment the staff is aware of their importance to maintain them on a daily basis. A lab coat, cargo pants or even a fanny pack is appropriate and having a locker to keep them in the begin the day may go a long way.

Taking the time and effort to establish a food safety management program  that includes a self audit program; for your facility and staff means follow up is required. Keeping your staff motivated about protocols in place, providing a way to make that happen, and performing proper self-audits means all staff members are a vital part of the business.

Texas Restaurant Equipment is pleased to have you as our clients. Helping you with all the purchases and sales of your new and used restaurant equipment means you are prepared to offer the best to your patrons. Serving all of Texas and shipping to our nationwide clients means we have our finger on the pulse of your needs in the food industry. Texas Restaurant Supply has inventory arriving on a daily basis. This inventory is made available to you through our online catalogue at http://www.txrestro.com  Whether you need to buy or sell one piece, or the contents of an entire restaurant, Texas Restaurant Equipment is your resource for late-model restaurant, bakery and bar equipment.

Call today to speak with a restaurant equipment specialist at both customer service numbers. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

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