September is National Food Safety Month, and we at Short Order want to honor that by putting up a short summary of the most basic food safety tips that we hope all of our clients and customers are following this month — and every month.
The Biggest Dangers in a Commercial Kitchen
There are two food-related dangers in a commercial kitchen that outweigh all others. The first is cross-contamination; getting one food into another in a way that leads to unsafe circumstances. The second is improper temperature control, which gives maleficent bacteria and viruses a chance to multiply and become quite dangerous.
What Foods Can Cross-Contaminate
There are two basic groups of foods that can cause problems with cross-contamination. The first group is the food that nasty viruses and bacteria grow on (or in). That means raw meat, raw fish, eggs, and pasteurized dairy products among others. The second group is the major allergens; milk, eggs, soy, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, and wheat. Any time you handle any of these foods, you need to follow strict protocols to keep them separated.
Keep Them Separated, Seriously.
This means cleaning surfaces and tools between each food — and possibly even having entirely different stations for processing ready-to-eat vs. cooked foods and allergenic vs. non-allergenic foods. It means storing your food in containers that seal without leaking, and putting the food most likely to contaminate in the event of a spill on the bottom shelves. It means packing contaminating foods in separate containers from others when transporting them.
The most obvious element of temperature control in cooking is making certain that all of those aforementioned raw foods get cooked to a safe internal temperature before they’re consumed, but there’s a bit more to it than that. Temperature control also means keeping food out of the ‘danger zone’ between 40 degrees and 105 degrees Fahrenheit. That in and of itself is a complex task involving a myriad of protocols for transporting, storing, thawing, preparing, cooling, storing the leftovers, and reheating the leftovers (make sure everything reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 15 seconds before serving).
Food safety is a critically important element of every restaurant’s function. All it takes is some people getting sick from eating at your restaurant to have catastrophic effects on your business. Follow the rules, and keep you customers and your employees safe this September and all year long.