FDA requires cleaning and sanitation practices to take place in the food facilities. Correct cleaning and sanitation procedures in the food industry protect the product and brand reputation of the restaurants. It ensures safe food consumption by employees and customers. Proper implementation of cleaning and sanitizing practices is imperative in the present scenario. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important to safeguard workers and consumers. Restaurant owners must ensure safe handling and delivery of food to the consumers.
There are protocols and Covid-19 recommendations for cleaning and food sanitization in food facilities. These protocols must be in place as a continuous process in the kitchens of hotels.
All restaurants and other food service establishments should follow the following guidelines:
1. Wash Hands Often
Cleanliness begins by maintaining proper personal hygiene. Washing hands is of utmost importance for food safety. It is a basic practice which everyone must follow. Employees should ensure that they wash their hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. This is imperative especially after touching high-touch surfaces like doorknobs, doorbells, kitchen sink, etc.
It is necessary for kitchen staff to wash their hands in a proper way before they handle and prepare food. Food handlers should also clean hands between the shifting of tasks. For example, washing hands between the handling of raw meat and cooked food. Unwashed hands transfer germs causing foodborne illness and other infectious diseases. Hence hand washing should be a strict norm that’s implemented and monitored. It is also advised that food should sanitize their hands at frequent intervals. An alcohol-based sanitizer would ensure germ and virus-free hands.
2. Clean Kitchen Equipment and Surfaces
It is important to clean and sanitize the entire kitchen area of the restaurants on a day to day basis. Food handlers must ensure to clean all the kitchen counters and surfaces. Ensure to wash the food preparation equipment like utensils, knives, cutting boards. Always use clean ice-makers, food and beverage equipment. It is best to wash kitchen equipment with warm water and let them air dry.
If any moisture is present on any equipment, one should clean them with a cotton cloth. Proper washing and rinsing remove food residue, grease, dirt, and invisible germs. Surface cleaning and sanitizing destroy disease-producing bacteria and viruses. It also prevents pests from inhabiting them. Preventing pest infestation is also an important part of any restaurant kitchen. Pests can contaminate food and water which may result in harmful diseases. Hence kitchen surfaces and countertops cleaning should be in place at frequent intervals.
3. Cleaning of Cleaning Tools and equipment
Proper cleaning tools and equipment too are a significant part of the kitchen. Clean and sanitize cleaning supplies like brooms, mops, sponges, squeegees, etc. every day. To clean the kitchen and equipment, one should have a clean set of cleaning tools. This will ensure efficient daily cleaning of kitchen and kitchen equipment. Well-maintained cleaning tools and equipment give desired results, and last longer. It is best to always clean and sanitize the cleaning tools and equipment.
Cleaning tools should first be dry cleaned and then pre-rinsed. This process will remove visible soils and debris. Wash the cleaning equipment with soap solution, rinse and let the equipment air dry. If not cleaned and disinfected in a proper way cleaning tools will spread germs and viruses. It may also result in microbial contamination of food. Always ensure to store the cleaning tools in a clean and dry area. To avoid cross-contamination between sanitation and production equipment, use color-coding. Equipment like vacuum cleaners, window cleaners, high-pressure cleaners, should be well maintained.
4. Cleaning and Sanitizing of High Touch Surfaces
Ensure to focus on the cleaning of the surfaces that get touched often and are used frequently. This includes doorknobs, switchboards, cart handles, elevator buttons, counters. Ensure to get these surfaces cleaned and sanitized at least once daily. Get the floors and other facility access areas with more traffic more often. Sanitize and disinfect areas with EPA registered disinfectants for a healthy, safe kitchen.
5. Follow Correct Procedures for Food Sanitisation
It is necessary to cut off the damaged and bruised areas of veggies and fruits. Always rinse fruits and vegetables under running water to get rid of all dirt and residues. Use a food brush to clean firm fruits like watermelon and cucumbers. Clean them under running water. Take care that meat, eggs, and seafood are not washed together with vegetables, else they may cause foodborne illness. Do not wash any product which has a label of “pre-washed”.
6. Separate Food Items
Do not allow any cross-contamination of the food item. Always use separate cutting boards, cutters, slicers, and utensils to cook vegetables. A separate set of equipment should be available to cook meat, poultry, seafood products. All should be well washed with hot water to remove germs and viruses. Replace kitchen equipment from time to time before they get worn out. Use separate bags for meat, poultry, and seafood. Keep them away from other food products in the shopping carts. This will prevent cross-contamination on other food items.
7. Follow Safe Temperatures
Food is safe to consume when its inside temperature is high enough to kill germs. Food handlers should ensure to cook food at appropriate temperatures. This will avoid food poisoning and foodborne illnesses. Ensure to cook raw meat, poultry items, and seafood at the right temperatures. Follow recommended food safety temperatures for every type of food product. In case food is being prepared in a microwave, ensure that food is evenly cooked. Follow the right storage temperatures for each food item. Store cold foods at 41 degrees Fahrenheit and hot foods need to be 140 degrees or above. Temperature-sensitive foods should not stay in the danger zone for more than 2 hours. During this time, dangerous bacteria can grow and spread.
Appropriate cleaning techniques, sanitizing products must be available in restaurants. Restaurant owners should look for new disinfecting practices at frequent intervals. Employees should have adequate knowledge in the process of sanitization procedures and food safety. The training programs should outline standard operating procedures to clean the facility. Cleaning and sanitizing are of utmost importance for maintaining food quality. Thus restaurant owners must adhere to the norms. Follow cleaning and sanitizing routine to restrict the spread of germs. It also helps to prevent foodborne illnesses and keep the image of the restaurant intact.
For anyone in the restaurant business, revisiting customers is the prime source of thriving. When you provide exemplary service, delicious food, and a memorable customer experience, you build loyalty that is repaid as repeat orders. Yet, the dream of repeated sales can come crashing down if you fail your inspection test or someone falls ill from eating your food.
On average, human error costs around $30 per order and $9,000 every month (based on a 20 table restaurant, 6,000 orders monthly) and a 5% human error rate. Unless you are careful about how the raw materials are handled, the food preparation methods, serving or storing of the food, and cleanliness practices, one small error can prove disastrous in the form of deaths from food poisoning, expensive lawsuits, and reduced visitors. So it is important to minimize human error, especially when working in a restaurant.
How Human Error Is The Greatest Threat To Food Safety
The food, being complex chemistry, can turn into an allergic reaction or a food poisoning case. If those handling the food become reckless about the food safety process. It can be as simple as touching the food with unwashed hands to as complex as preparing food on a grill with grease collected over the years. Microbial food poisoning is the most common human error-related issue found in restaurants.
Wrong Order Placement
Prevalent in both dine-in and take-out orders, placing the wrong order is the silliest yet prevalent human error. Certain people follow a restricted dietary lifestyle by choice or due to certain underlying ailments. When the staff messes up the order, it can lead to dissatisfaction (lifestyle choice) to triggering allergic reactions (underlying ailments). While part of the blame may lie on the lunch/ dinner hour rush, similar orders with a slight change, miscommunication from the kitchen, it is important to keep such errors to the minimum. Confirm the order at the time of placing and even at the time of serving.
Inaccurate Stock Placement
Restaurants rely on traders and suppliers for their raw ingredients. Certain food items like milk, certain vegetables, etc., are replenished daily while other products like spices, grains, pulses, meat have a higher shelf life and hence, are ordered in bulk. Yet, if you miscalculate and place an inaccurate stock request, it can lead to management issues. Too less and your reputation comes on line and too much food item will lead to storage issues and wastage. Either way, inaccuracy in stock placement can hurt the business owner’s pockets as it affects the profit margins.
Lack of Physical Hygiene
Basic hygiene practices such as regular hand washing and keeping oneself clean is a no-brainer yet the number of food joints and restaurants closed due to improper hygiene is alarming. An average wait staff touches roughly 18 surfaces within a span of 10 mins. This includes the plates they carry, their notepad, the table clothes, their own face, cutleries, glass, etc. We are surrounded by microbes and when you wash hands frequently, you get rid of any threatening microbes and prevent them from transferring. This has become a norm post-pandemic for all industries, yet it is more vital to keep your hands clean when working in a restaurant.
Recommendation: Vital Steps to Take for Preventing Food Illnesses
Food preparation Carelessness
A most common avenue where a slight human error can result in a catastrophe is the kitchen. Utmost care needs to be taken right from ingredient procurements to washing them and cooking them. Runoff from the raw meat may be full of disease-causing microbes. And the outer skin of fruits and vegetables may have pesticides on them. If they get mixed with prepared food, they can enter our digestive system when consumed. Similarly, using the same utensils, knives, and plates for preparing meat and vegetables is an easy way to transfer the microbes from one to another. Similarly, cooking meat throughout till it reaches an internal temperature of 145oF helps kill off any microbe that may be present inside the meat.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
Keeping the kitchen and surrounding clean is the duty of everyone working in the restaurant. Yet, sometimes lax in maintaining cleanliness allows molds and fungus to grow. Also, easily transferred to other surfaces through the means of touch. Regularly mopping the floors and cleaning the dining and kitchen surface ensures that surfaces remain sanitized. Similarly, when disposing of waste, ensure the lid of the bin is tightly closed. Failure to do so attracts flies and rodents, who work as carriers of harmful diseases.
Food storage is another place where the most human errors occur. Whether for the purpose of storage or transportation, the food temperatures are crucial. Unless the food is brought to food storage temperatures of below 40oF within two hours of preparation, any microbes can enter the food and multiply quickly. So, the temperature range between 40 – 145oF is called the Danger Zone.
Similarly, when storing the leftovers and raw ingredients in the walk-in freezer, the shelf order also is important. Always keep the raw meat on the lowest shelf, Leftovers, and prepared food on the topmost shelf. This way any run-off and juices will not come in contact with the cooked food.
How a Food Handlers Permit be a solution to Minimizing Human Error
To curb the hiring of inexperienced personnel in the food industry, the department of health of different states have made it mandatory for individuals to be holders of food handlers permit. Undergoing the online training makes the attendants familiar with different food handling practices and food storage methods. Additionally, the knowledge about different allergens and different protocols to follow when working in a restaurant is taught to the attendant. Only after passing an exam related to what was taught. And scoring above 75% is someone eligible for working professionally in a restaurant. After 30 days of passing, they receive a permanent Food Handlers Permit.
Being a human, it is imperative to make mistakes. Yet, when it comes to such high costs that can ruin someone’s health and the restaurant’s reputation, nobody wants to make mistakes. In addition to the additional cost, the frustration that comes with it is unnecessary. Being prepared and undergoing proper food and safety training, can help minimize the opportunities for an error to happen. Easy Food Handlers is a Utah-based food safety and handling training institute that is recognized by the Utah State Department of Health.
The common belief that foodborne illnesses begin in the kitchens may be right to some extent. Yet, at the same time, foodborne illnesses can begin even before the food production stage. In other words, food contamination can happen long before it reaches the kitchen. Food gets contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, and chemicals. Bacteria and viruses are present in raw meat, seafood, and poultry products. Whereas, certain food compositions can trigger allergic reactions. Storing food at wrong temperatures or not following hygiene practices can also lead to food contamination. Preventing foodborne illnesses should be your top priority.
Symptoms of Food Poisoning
Most foodborne illnesses have mild symptoms, and one can get cured in a short span of time. Common symptoms of foodborne illnesses are diarrhea, nausea, fever, and stomach cramps. These symptoms subside as the body gets rid of bacteria and germs. In case of severe symptoms, one may need to seek medical attention. So how to prevent foodborne illness and protect the family and consumers. Let’s take a closer look at how to optimize food safety:
Ways to Optimize Food Safety
Get food products from authorized suppliers that handle food safety norms and parameters. Always check for the cleanliness of the storage area and the food products. Check for the freshness, and food should not have any bad smells.
Avoid purchasing the packaged foods that have dents in their cartons or cans. Never pick the jars with cracks and loose lids. Dents can make room for bacteria to seep into the food, thereby making it unsafe to consume. Any loose jar lid indicates that the container has lost vacuum and the product is contaminated. Never buy any tampered packaged or processed food even if there are discounts on it. Never consume any such food even if it looks fine to consume. Such food items might have got contaminated and can result in food poisoning. The bacteria might be present in a minute form that is not visible to the eyes.
Food labels provide information on its ingredients, cooking, and storage instructions. It also provides dates for which food is safe to consume. So, before buying the products, always read the labels. Buy only those items with allergen-free ingredients. Check the dates and consume the foods before the specified “use by” and “Best before” dates end. Eating past this date puts your health at risk. Consuming foods after the specified dates can lead to foodborne illness.
Frozen Foods, Meats & Poultry
While buying frozen products, ensure the packets are well-sealed and not crushed on the edges. Check for the freshness of eggs, ensure eggshells are free of cracks, and have no foul smells. Ensure that you place meat and fish products in separate bags. This will prevent the drippings from contaminating other food items. When buying ingredients, pick frozen and perishable items in the end. If possible, have an icebox in your vehicle to carry frozen foods. Accept frozen foods from suppliers only when they take them out of the freezer. Warm temperatures are perfect for bacteria to multiply, and it results in contamination.
Recommendation: Salmonella and Eggs: The real dangers and how to prevent them
Food safety in the kitchen
Once in the kitchen, follow the following safety norms to prevent foodborne illnesses.
Clean Hands & Kitchen Surfaces/Equipment
Prevent bacteria spread by washing hands at frequent intervals with soap and water. Ensure to wash utensils, chopping boards, and knives before and after food preparation. To avoid contamination, wash hands between the handling of foods like meat and fish. Keep separate knives, chopping boards for meats and fish to avoid cross-contamination. Always wash utensils, countertops, chopping boards with antibacterial cleaning agents before closing the restaurant.
Separate Food Products
Microbes get transferred from one food to another. Keep raw meat, seafood, eggs away from other food to avoid cross-contamination. Store meat, poultry, and seafood in separate bags to prevent their juices from mixing into other foods. Store eggs in their original carton. Keep an individual set of knives, chopping boards for fruits and vegetables.
Maintain storage and cooking temperatures to kill bacteria and prevent foodborne diseases. Use a thermometer to check the temperature of meats, poultry, etc., is even and safe. Food storage temperatures in refrigerators should be 40ºF to prevent bacteria spread. Refrigerate meats, poultry products, fish and defrost them before cooking them. Do not store cooked foods for a long duration.
Following the food safety tips and tricks right from the point of you buy the food product till kitchen. Cleanliness is the key to prevent foodborne diseases. While preparing food, ensure to follow food safety norms to keep food safe to consume. Undertaking the necessary training and becoming the holder of a food safety handlers card is an indication of you having all the knowledge and being qualified to handle food professionally.
An egg is one of the most nutritious and delicious foods provided to us by nature. There are many types of eggs, from omega-3 to organic available in the market. Nowadays, there is also an influx of branded eggs that claim to have low cholesterol. These graded eggs are fortified with vitamins A, D, and E and assure the best quality.
Yet time and again, one question comes up “Can you get salmonella from eggs?” In a nutshell, it depends on the hygiene practices followed and how well you cook those eggs.
Yet, let’s learn more about the dangers of salmonella and how to prevent them.
What is Salmonella?
A salmonella is a group of bacteria commonly found in raw meat and poultry items. Food poisoning from eggs is common in many regions and countries of the world. Even fresh eggs with clean and perfect shells may contain salmonella. Yet, a lot of people are unaware of how common salmonella is in eggs. So it is imperative to get food handlers training through a Courses and Certification Agency.
When taking a food certification course in Utah, you understand how one gets salmonella. Salmonella first affects the intestines and then spreads to other parts of the body. The symptoms appear within 6 to 48 hours after consumption of contaminated eggs.
Someone affected by salmonella will experience diarrhea, high fever, and abdominal cramps. Thankfully, most of the symptoms of salmonella subside within 4-5 days. Yet, people with a weak immune system may have a severe infection and may need hospitalization.
Precautions to take
Hence one must follow safety precautions when handling eggs. FDA – Food & Drug Administration has set regulations to handle, store eggs and transport them to prevent contamination. Following are some safety tips and tricks one can follow to avoid getting a Salmonella infection-
Recommendation: Five common foodborne illnesses caused by improper food handling
When Buying Eggs
One must buy eggs from grocery stores that follow egg storage safety regulations. Reputed vendors and grocery stores always store eggs in the refrigerator. Refrigeration prevents the bacteria from multiplying due to cold temperatures. Look for clean eggs, and the shells are not too thin, soiled, or cracked. It is best and safe to buy pasteurized eggs. Pasteurized eggs go through a process of heating and holding eggs at 140° F temperature at least. This process makes eggs salmonella-free and prevents contamination of eggs.
Storing the Eggs
Proper storage of eggs affects both their quality and safety. It is best to store shelled eggs in the refrigerator at an ideal temperature of 40° F or below. The eggs remain fresher when stored in their original carton. Do not store eggs in the refrigerator doors as they are the warmest area of the refrigerator. Never wash eggs before storing them as it removes the protective mineral oil coating on them. Washing eggs before refrigeration increases the chances of bacteria entering the egg. For best quality, one should use eggs within three weeks from the day you refrigerate them.
If one wants to store eggs for a more extended time, then the best option is to freeze eggs. Do not freeze eggs in their shells. Instead, freeze the eggs by beating the yolk and white together and storing the same. Eggs and egg-based dishes taste best when consumed fresh. To store them, it is best to refrigerate them and consume them within 2 to 3 days.
Preparing or Cooking
Before commencing to cook eggs, one must follow proper hand hygiene, i.e., washing hands with soap and water. Besides, it is best to keep a separate scrubber to wash and clean utensils that you use for egg preparation. This will prevent the transfer of any leftover residue from the egg scrubber to other utensils.
One must fry, scramble and poach the eggs till both egg yolks and egg whites are firm. One can cook egg dishes at an internal temperature of 160°F or hotter. Use a food thermometer to check and to cook eggs at the right temperature. Prepare raw egg-based dishes like ice cream, salad dressings with pasteurized eggs. Pasteurized eggs have fewer chances of contamination.
Serving the prepared food
Eggs change their taste and smell over time. It is best to serve and consume boiled eggs, fried eggs, and egg-based foods like quiches immediately. Never leave leftover eggs or egg-based preparations at room temperature. This allows the bacteria to multiply, making the eggs unsafe for consumption.
One can refrigerate the unconsumed eggs and egg dishes. Just ensure to reheat them at 165°F before serving. Serve reheated egg and egg dishes in small platters to maintain their temperature. Refrigerate all egg-based preparations till the time of serving. Keep the deserts that contain eggs on an ice base while serving.
For picnics and outdoor gatherings, pack the eggs and egg dishes in insulated coolers. This will keep the eggs at the right temperature. At picnic spots, one can put them in the shade and keep the lids of containers closed. This way, one can prevent eggs and egg dishes from getting contaminated and spoiled. If you carry eggs to school or workplace, pack cooked eggs with frozen gel packs or frozen juice boxes.
Eggs are the most common carriers of salmonella. Hence one must take care with eggs. Check the eggs for freshness and always ensure to store them in the correct temperatures. Follow safety tips while preparing and serving eggs to safeguard against salmonella. One should take care while handling eggs. In case of food poisoning due to eggs, one must seek medical advice immediately.
Food safety and wastage are of necessary concern all over the world. Every year many people fall sick due to foodborne illnesses. Additionally, a lot of food gets wasted due to various reasons. The causes of food wastage are:
- product not used within specified dates
- food not stored in a proper way
As per Feeding America – 108 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States each year. Out of which, 40% wastage occurs from Consumer-facing Businesses.
Global food wastage almost costs up to 2.6 trillion USD per year. It is thus the responsibility of every commercial food set up to reduce food wastage. This will protect the environment and save the cost of production for the food.
Let’s see how restaurants can reduce food wastage to ensure State Food Safety norms in Utah.
Train Kitchen Staff
All pantry staff must have training on buying, storing, and properly cooking food to ensure food safety. Strict food safety and hygiene practices must be in place for one and all working in the pantry. Also, staff must have complete knowledge of food safety and foodborne illnesses.
To prevent wastage, the staff procuring the food items must only accept fresh foods. Avoid cross-contamination by using separate equipment and utensils to prepare food. Staff must throw out stale food and food with foul odors to prevent food contamination. Enforcing Utah food handlers permit can help to maintain food safety and cut food wastage. Provide training to staff on food safety and ensure that they are well informed on food safety norms.
Avoid over-buying stock & Stock Inventorizing.
Restaurants should buy ingredients in quantities that they will use immediately or shortly. Sometimes, to earn more profits, the supplier offers tempting and better deals on bulk buy. In turn, this leads to unnecessary buying of food items. Moreover, the extra food may get spoiled in the storage, leading to food wastage based on the shelf life. It is thus imperative to avoid over-purchasing of food ingredients.
Food handlers should be well informed on the availability of food stock in the pantry.
It is often seen in various food setups that almost 21% of food gets wasted because of food spoilage.
Hence there should be proper tracking of the food stock coming in and used by the restaurant.
Recommendation: Keeping Your Restaurant Kitchen Clean and Up to Code
Proper temperature control is essential for food safety. One should check & assure that refrigerators, cold storage operate at the correct temperatures. It helps prevent food decay, spoilage, and waste due to mold and bacterial growth. It is advisable to follow and maintain the proper hygiene norms of the food storage units. One must make sure that the food storage areas are always neat and tidy.
Ensure to store high-risk food items on the lower shelves of freezers and cold storage. Likewise, store the low-risk food items on the upper shelves of the refrigerators. Ensure the food storage area is free of pests to prevent pest infestations.
Rotate Food Stocks
Follow the ‘FIFO’ rule – First In, First Out rule when storing and displaying food for sale. This principle ensures that the new stock is always behind the older stock. This practice enables the usage of older food items first. Implementing the FIFO rule eliminates any chances of food spoilage or food wastage.
Track Use By Dates
This is an essential lesson in the food certification course in Utah. Every packaged food comes with use by and best before dates. These dates imply the time or the specific date till which food is safe to consume. A list displaying food use by, best before, or expiry dates on the restaurant pantry should help the staff keep a check. It will enable kitchen workers to use them before the food gets stale and unsafe to use. One must check these dates while procuring food products for the pantry. This ensures only safe food is available for consumption and prevents food wastage.
Correct Food Labeling
Ensure to divide the food items into different containers to store them properly. Each container should have a label with complete information on the food product. It should have information on nutritional value, expiry dates, and allergy warnings. Labeling food containers prevents cross-contamination when you store them. This way, it’s easier to track food items with their respective product descriptions.
Inspect Food Deliveries
While receiving the stocks, ensure to receive only the items as per the requisition list. It is also recommended to cross verify and check all the food items. This exercise will allow you to reject food items with visible spoilage. Always reject foods that leak or have damaged packaging. Never accept any food with a strange color, smell, or food product stored at the wrong temperature.
Every year, tons of food gets wasted in restaurants while many people stay hungry. The restaurants should donate the leftover and unused food for the set of people who need it. Restaurant owners must ensure that the food they donate is fresh and safe to consume. Hence, restaurants should collaborate with local food banks. Food banks collect unused food from restaurants and food outlets daily. This way, leftover food reaches the right people rather than going to waste.
Restaurants adopt large batch cooking to save time, but at times it leads to food wastage. Restaurants should analyze their customer behavior and prepare food in the required quantity. This will ensure that all prepared food will get used before it gets stale. Also, restaurants must provide a made-to-order option for consumers to avoid wastage.
By following simple food safety norms, restaurants can prevent food from spoiling. Food handlers must develop guidelines for the pantry team to maintain food safety. Food safety procedures must be in place at different levels of food preparation, such as buying, storing, and cooking. It helps prevent cross-contamination and foodborne illnesses. Restaurants must follow state health guidelines for food wastage. Ensure that procedures must be in place in all food setups to reduce the risk of foodborne diseases.
Food is one of the basic requirements of man. As per the famous adage, “feed a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” Those working in the food industry manage to do both. They feed their family by preparing a meal for their customers. As long as the customers like the food, they will continue to give repeat business. Yet, running a successful food business comes with its own set of challenges. Since the customers trust you with their food, it is essential to uphold the trust by taking all precautions and serving contamination-free and safe-to-eat food that has been cooked properly to the correct internal temperature.
To ensure proper implementation, most state health departments have in place specific directives that require restaurant owners only to hire qualified employees. One of the qualifications that allow you to start working immediately is a Food handler’s certification. It acknowledges the holder of the certificate to be trained in different aspects of food handling. Right from the procurement of raw materials to catering the prepared food to the customers. As per Rule R392-103 of the Utah Administrative Code, anyone working in an establishment involved in food handling at any stage. Of its preparation directly or indirectly should obtain a valid food handler permit from an approved training provider or Food Education Center.
Thankfully, becoming qualified doesn’t require you to go to great lengths or face hardships, and it can be done in one week’s time approximately. However, before learning where you can apply for a permit. let’s understand what you will learn by undergoing a food handler’s training and other benefits of holding a food handler’s permit.
What will you learn from food handlers classes?
Different Foodborne Illnesses & Food Allergies
The food can be a complex symphony of chemistry and gastronomy. As a result, it is very easy to go wrong when it comes to food preparation and handling. So, someone in charge of handling food needs to be educated about the different hazards while handling food. The basics of different food-borne illnesses, along with the prime suspects (pathogens or chemical imbalance), is one of the basic topics covered in food handler’s training.
Allergens are another issue when it comes to food preparations. Different people develop allergic reactions to certain food items when coming in physical contact or ingesting them. The allergic reactions can be as mild as rashes or hives on skin to as severe as inflammation in the food pipe and asphyxiation. So, a breakdown of the different allergic food items com & mon signs of allergic reactions is provided to those attending the class.
One of the primary causes of foodborne illnesses is unhygienic practices such as improper food handling. Most health officials consider it an offense severe enough to close down a restaurant. So, the next thing someone taking the classes learns about is the proper handwashing and surrounding sanitization protocols to follow when working in a restaurant. Discussing the ‘to-do’s and ‘never-do’s when it comes to employee hygiene, equipment cleaning, keeping the kitchen & washing area clean is how you can sensitize people about sticking to cleanliness when working at a restaurant.
Additional precautions such as wearing gloves and hairnets (or touche Blanche, i.e., white hat) and how frequently one should wash their hands and in which situations before touching food is an important point covered in the class.
Most people mistake that once the food is prepared, nothing can go wrong from thereon. However, temperature plays an essential role in food chemistry, and the internal temperatures of specific food preparations are crucial. Any pathogens that contaminate the food thrive and multiply in a temperature range of 41 °F and 135 °F. So it is important to be careful about moving the food quickly through this temperature range. This is vital when thawing cooked food or keeping the prepared food in the holding area before refrigeration. The training attendees are informed about the final cooking temperatures of different cooked food items. The storage temperature for each food item (raw and prepared), and different things to keep in mind when thawing, cooling, or reheating prepared food.
Cross-contamination is another most common cause for most restaurants being closed by health officials. Failure to keep raw ingredients separate from cooked items or not practicing safe food preparation. And storage methods allows pathogens to transfer from one source to another and causes the food to be contaminated. Keeping unwashed and soiled plates open or near clean plates will attract pests, and everyone knows that pests are the #1 carriers of disease-causing pathogens. Attendants of food handling training classes are taught about cross-contaminations, everyday situations where cross-contamination is prone to occur, safe equipment & utensils cleaning, and the importance of storing different food items separately.
Benefits of a Food Handlers permit
As we mentioned earlier, the Utah Administrative Code mandates the employees of a restaurant. Or any other establishments serving food to be a holder of valid food handlers permit. To avail it, the individual needs to complete the above-mentioned food handlers training. And pass an exam related to it with at least 75% to be qualified. In addition to being eligible to work in a restaurant immediately, having a Utah food handler’s permit has other benefits as well.
- Food Safety: After course completion, you’ll start seeing food from a different perspective and be more responsible about it.
- Improve hygiene standards: Learning about the different ways our hands become contaminated will make you more hygiene-conscious (not germaphobe)
- Be more prepared: Learning about the various allergens and the reactions to each helps you become more prepared to tackle critical situations where someone has an allergic reaction.
With new pathogens and food-related techniques being discovered, the duration of a food handler’s permit validity is a maximum of 3 years. So, by periodically attending the course and renewing your permit, you remain up-to-date with all the food handling best practices.
Where to apply for a Utah Food Handlers Permit?
While most named restaurants and institutes run specialized academies. where you can undergo the food handling course and appear for the qualification examination. With the ongoing pandemic, undertaking a food handler course can be done from the comforts of your house. Certified training institutes such as Easy Food Handlers conduct online training sessions. Industry-leading experts provide all the information related to working in a restaurant and provide helpful tips in the form of a 75min instructional video. You can watch the video in multiple sessions and, once completed, appear for the exam within a week of course completion. On failing on the first attempt, you can appear two more times. On successfully passing, you can print the temporary food handlers permit and start working immediately. The folks at Easy Food Handlers manage all the registration and application for the permanent food handlers permit. At the local state authority, and it will be mailed to you within 30 days of passing the course.
Irrespective of how you opt for availing your food handlers permit, make sure that you get it from a state-recognized institute. As mentioned earlier, Easy Food Handlers can be pivotal for getting your food handlers permit effortlessly, and they are a State of Utah Department of Health approved certification provider.
Food apart from clothing and housing is one of the basic human needs. Our bodies need food to function properly. The food provides nutrients to the body to grow, develop, and survive. Food preparation involves procuring food in its natural & native form and cooking it to enhance its flavors. It is very important to prepare food in the right way as food can become a feeding ground or, as some say, a playing ground for microbes to grow and spoil it when handled incorrectly. If the right measures are not taken, when handling preparing, cooking, or storing the food, it can lead to food spoilage or poisoning, and most of the time, the spoilage is not visible to the naked eye. This food, when consumed, can be harmful to the body, causing food-borne illness and diseases.
With various lifestyle factors, eating out has become an eternal part of everyone’s life. Most customers would visit a restaurant by trusting the food prepared, and as a responsible food business owner, it is essential that the food served to customers is prepared properly. Food business practice owners and operators must follow best food production and hygiene practices to prevent food-borne illnesses. The spoilage can occur at any stage, right from the point of procurement to the point it is served to the customer.
General rules for pre – Food Preparation
During food procurement, the different ingredients are handled by many people, right from vendors selling the raw food items to the one at the commercial kitchen who cooks the food. This makes the raw material subject to many germs that can cause allergies and stomach issues to those who are consuming it. This is why it’s important to scrutinize the received food item. If found in rot or spoiled form, visibly discolored, the receiving department should not accept them. Common indicators of food spoilage would be:
- Vegetables not feeling firm
- Cheese showing different color hue
- Meat product having a strong off smell and odors.
Washing Foods and Hand
Once food products reach the kitchen for preparation, food handlers must ensure that they wash their hands before touching the food. Washing and drying hands thoroughly is an essential food preparation protocol to get rid of germs and invisible viruses that are unsafe for health. It is also important to wash the hands after touching the raw materials. Additionally, kitchen surfaces, chopping boards, knives, and any other cooking equipment or clothes that may come in contact with the food directly or indirectly are also clean. Both personal hygiene and kitchen hygiene are of utmost importance for the proper preparation of the food.
Ensure food products are cleaned and washed well to remove dust, bacteria, pesticide remains, and chemicals. To prevent any kind of cross-contamination, wash and store poultry products separately. Meats, seafood, and dairy products, all fruits and veggies are prone to contamination due to viruses and toxins, which can cause food-borne allergies.
Again as a basic rule, never store fresh produce with farm produce or seafood. Use separate utensils and other kitchen equipment to prevent cross-contamination.
Cooking Temperatures & Storage
It is essential to keep meat products, dairy, seafood, and vegetables all in separate storage sections to prevent cross-contamination. Cold storage and deep freezers, walk-in chillers should have the right temperature. Cooking should be carried in the right temperatures with hot food to be served hot and cold food to be served cold.
Also, storage temperatures should be kept in mind while storing the food items. Food items should have appropriate labels clearly showing the receipt date and must be stored in temperature-controlled environments. The requisite staff must have complete knowledge. This will prevent the growth and spread of harmful bacteria which cause food poisoning. When food is not stored at the correct temperature, it leads to the growth and spread of bacteria which in turn cause stomach infections and food poisonings. To lower the risks of food poisoning and food allergies. It is important that food is prepared and stored according to their respective temperatures.
Cross-contamination occurs when the bacteria or germs pass from one food onto another. Cross-contamination mainly occurs when the raw foods are not separated properly. To prevent cross-contamination, separate chopping boards, slicers, knives, and cooking utensils should be in place for the different food types. Never mix raw and uncooked food with cooked or ready-to-eat food. Also, all the packaging materials should be thrown right after the meat or fish products are taken out. As a standard rule, no packaging material should be reused as this can cause cross-contamination and cause food spoilage.
Avoid Food-Borne Illness
If the food is not properly prepared, it leads to cross-contamination and food-borne illnesses. To prevent food-borne illness, it is imperative that the chef and the assisting team members use sterilized utensils or those cleaned using correct cleaning solutions. Sanitization of utensils with boiled water or a chlorine-based solution should be a regular practice in cooking areas. A proper cleaning routine should be carried out to keep the crawling and flying insects at bay to prevent food contamination.
It is imperative that at every stage of food preparation, hygiene rules are followed to eliminate cross-contamination. Right from the stage of procurement, ensure that each food type is placed separately, stored in separate walk-in freezers. Or refrigerators based on their temperatures and prepared in different utensils. These basic principles will ensure that the food is prepared correctly and served well to the clients. Also, you can join the Utah food certification course Where you get to learn every stage of food preparation.
Any business which deals with food service has the critical task of keeping their food preparation areas clean. This ensures happy chefs and cooks, good hygiene standards, and above all, happy & satisfied customers served with great food. If an outlet or an organization fails to adhere to correct food safety measures, there is the likelihood of food poisoning, which may lead to health concerns for people who are consuming the food.
Clean as you go, wash hands regularly, avoid cross-contamination, maintain the right food temperature (while storing, cooking, and serving) are some of the common principles for food safety.
A business needs to follow the code set out by the state food safety department.
First, let’s concentrate on cleaning areas that can be broadly classified into three regions-
- For washing dishes/utensils/equipment & food items
The utensil cleaning area needs to have a 3-compartment sink with dual drainboards– this is essential for washing, rinsing, and sanitizing equipment. It may further be added that the sink size should be large enough to accommodate the washing of the largest equipment used in the facility. The pressure and temperature of the water, hot and cold, should be adequate.
- Personal hand-wash for staff (food handlers and kitchen staff)
- Hand washing facility to be available to all employees at common locations such as food prep area, food dispensing area near dishwasher /pot-wash area, and restrooms. Handwash sink to be used only to wash hands and should have
- a hand-wash soap
- dryer (paper towels or air-dryer)
- running water supply with adequate pressure and hot and cold water availability
- Washing utility equipment
A separate utility sink for cleaning mops, table cloths, and towels is placed far from the food preparation area.
Handling of Kitchen Tools, Utensils, and Equipment to Prevent Contamination
As per the food safety codes, the prevention of food contamination is a paramount concern. For this, it is imperative to have proper cleaning and sanitization of all contact surfaces, including utensils and equipment used for food preparation. Before reusing any equipment, ensure to wash and clean them properly. All food and equipment to be stored in a dry, clean, and moisture-free place where they are not exposed to dust or contamination. As common sense will tell us, food should not be stored near toilets, garbage rooms, or under leaky pipes, stairwells, and any other place where it could potentially be exposed to contamination. All the equipment and food surface areas should be safe, durable (non-corrosive and non-absorbent), and easy to clean. All food prep equipment such as flat-top grills and stoves should be easily movable to allow cleaning or installed to enable six-inches clearance between floor and equipment.
Food Preparation, Handling/ Processing, Packaging & Storage
The establishment’s floorings should be constructed of smooth, durable materials and to be well maintained with timely repairs if required. Areas include food prep areas such as the main kitchen, walk-in refrigerators/freezers, restrooms, staff locker areas. There should be no carpeting in any place where the floor is subject to moisture like walk-in refrigerators, ware washing areas, toilet room areas, and refuse storage room. Wall and Ceiling to have smooth surfaces. All fixtures like light, vents, and fans are easily cleanable. Food prep areas and storage areas to be well lit to avoid any accidents. Food storage spaces should be handled with proper segregation of food types to prevent cross-contamination. For instance, ready-to-cook food should not be kept together with raw foods. All raw animal foods, dairy products, cold cuts, or frozen foods should be stored separately with proper temperature controls.
Recommended: Importance of Cooling Food Correctly
Hot & Cold Holding Areas
When kept in improper holding temperatures, food products spread germs and bacterial growth, which leads to contamination. Use thermometers to keep the temperature check and ensure that cold food holding temperatures fall under 41°F. Any food that has a temperature of 42°F and above falls in a danger zone and should be disposed of safely. Similarly, for hot food, holding temperature should not be above 135°F.
Restrooms, Locker Rooms & Laundry Areas
Restroom facilities should be provided for all team members. Restroom or washroom should not open directly into a food processing area. As a general safety rule, maintain a fifteen feet distance between the toilet door and the food processing area. Other areas of importance are team member lockers; these should be used only for staff changing to their work uniform, parking area to be concrete. Laundry should be managed in clean, hygienic ways to avoid contamination. Dishwashing machines to be installed in the right way. Potable water supply to be available.
The facility should have good ventilation for the prevention of grease or condensation on walls. Good, cleanable ventilation must be in place to keep the facility free from condensation, foul odors, smoke, and fumes.
Storage of bulk food should be done in bins that are clearly labeled and can be washed. All storage bins to have a secure lid.
All floors, which require water cleaning should have covered drains. Plumbing systems should be installed in a manner that there is no backflow of water. A proper sewage system should be installed to allow smooth disposal through a public sewage system.
Restaurant kitchens should follow systematic garbage disposal following the protocols as per the food safety codes provided and include separate bins for refuse, recyclables, and returnables. Containers for food waste or residue need to be durable and be easily cleaned. Food waste bins to be resistant to insects, rodents and should be leakproof.
Hiring the right set of staff
Getting a job in a restaurant may be an easy task when you bend the rules by a bit but making the wrong kind of hire can cost you dearly when tragedy strikes in form of inspection. The state of Utah dictates that anyone working in the restaurant business and being involved in any stage of the food preparation or catering should be a certified food handler. Getting one is not a herculean task and certified institutes such as Easy Food Handlers can help you get food handlers permit by providing useful resources and guidance in the same.
Running an establishment serving food is nothing less than a battlefield during peak hours, with orders coming from all sides. Keeping your calm and ensuring that your kitchen remains clean and up to code as such crucial times requires nerves of steel but by sticking to the tips mentioned here, your work will be substantially simplified.
When preparing food at home, you are in full control of what goes in your food. When ordering food from an establishment such as a restaurant, food truck, or hot dog stand situated at the corner, your health is at the mercy of the cook/ server. Unless care is taken during food preparation, storage, and catering, the food served may contain an allergic ingredient or would be a breeding ground for different ailments causing pathogens. Consumption of such contaminated food can cause symptoms as mild as gas formation or diarrhea or as severe as an anaphylactic shock that can land you in the ER.
What causes Foodborne Illnesses?
Everyone has a varying level of resistance to different ailments. Mostly after eating contaminated food, the body’s defense mechanism kicks in to limit the damage caused, by trying to flush out the toxic as diarrhea. Hence, it is one of the common symptoms of most foodborne illnesses. Sometimes, the body’s defense mechanism is triggered for certain food items and this is classified as an allergic reaction. Similarly, carelessness during food preparation can cause foreign contaminants to be introduced which may cause injury to the mouth. This is not classified under food illnesses but the consequences can be a foodborne illness. Hence, foodborne illnesses can be classified under 2 major criteria:
- Biohazard – The largest reason for foodborne illness is caused by various bacterias, viruses, or parasites. The easiest way to spread them is from improper food handling practices or unhygienic food preparation methods. The five prime suspects behind foodborne illnesses are:
- E. coli
- Clostridium perfringens
- Chemical – Toxins or chemical contaminants found naturally in certain food items (allergens) or formed when cooked (histamine formation from seafood) are the causes behind such foodborne illnesses. The list of allergens affecting most people are:
- All types of tree nuts
- Various shellfish variants (lobster, crab, shrimp)
How to prevent foodborne illnesses?
When handling food in a professional setting, contamination prevention can be achieved in 4 easy to follow steps:
It doesn’t matter if you are the delivery guy delivering the groceries, a line cook preparing the food, or the wait staff serving the order, it is important to ensure that the food is only touched with clean hands and prepared in clean utensils. Restaurant staff should use effective cleaning methods such as washing the utensils in warm, soapy water and scrubbing hands together using soap for 20 seconds minimum before rinsing. Pathogens spread fast from wet hands, so always pat yourself dry with a paper towel or a clean hand cloth.
Disease-causing pathogens cannot survive in alcohol-based medium, so hand sanitizers are great for disinfection but shouldn’t replace hand washing. Regularly wash and sanitize all the surfaces and equipment used for food preparations. Use chlorine bleach as a sanitizing medium when cleaning the utensils and serving plates.
In the storage stage, the chances of cross-contamination are very high if all the ingredients are placed in contact with each other. Similarly, if a utensil is used without washing prior, the flavor and the pathogens are easily transferred into the next food. Always keep raw meat, poultry, or fish in separate bags to prevent their juices from mixing with other food items. Keep the vegetables and meat in physically separate bags. Only disposable plastic bags should be used for storing meat, which should also be disposed of after use once. For re purposability, you can also use plastic-lined reusable bags.
During food preparation, thoroughly wash your hands before touching the food or any utensils. Always keep separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables. Never reuse the marinade used for seasoning the meat. Keep in mind during food storage, always keep the raw and uncooked meat in the bottommost rack of the freezer. While thawing, make sure the meat is placed in a plastic bag and brought to room temperature naturally.
Cook at the right temperature
Temperature plays a vital role in the multiplication of pathogens. If food is infected with pathogens, they easily multiply in the temperature range of 41°F and 135°F. Hence, this temperature range is called Danger Zone. While preparing food or storing it, it is important that the food’s internal temperature remains above 145°F. The list of internal temperature for different food products are as below:
(Source: Food Safety and Inspection Service)
When heating soups or stews, make sure they reach boiling to have an internal temperature of 160°F. Use a meat thermometer to constantly monitor the temperature while cooking the meat. While serving the food, it should be piping hot.
Cooling and Food Storage
Never leave cooked food at room temperature for more than 2 hours. When the meat is to be cooked, thaw it naturally while covered in a plastic bag. When thawing food in the microwave or cold water, cook it immediately. When transporting perishable food, always use a cooler or gel packs. Portion out your food into smaller containers for quick cooling.
Due to globalization, more and more severe forms of dangerous pathogens are being discovered. Hence, the demand for strict food safety guidelines is ever-growing. The above information will prepare you for different sources of foodborne illnesses as well as the prevention tips. For better preparedness, it is better to undertake a food handlers course that trains you for different aspects of food handling professionally.
What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. While this adage may be motivating millions of people globally to take up challenges that hold them back, those working in the food industry have a different variation of it. – What makes your customers sick can attract a heavy lawsuit.
When it comes to serving food professionally, your customers trust you and the establishment to handle it correctly. They assume that the food served to them is tasty, made fresh, contains no allergic elements, and more importantly, free from any disease-causing microbes. To live up to this expectation, it is important for anyone handling food professionally to be well-acquainted and well-equipped with the knowledge of different aspects of food preparation, serving, and storing food items.
This is one of the many reasons why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published the Food Code, a model set of guidelines and procedures on the basis of which food control jurisdictions can regulate restaurants, grocery stores, and institutional foodservice providers in the U.S.A.
As per the Food Code, it is important for employees to hold valid food handlers permit. In Utah specifically, it is mandatory for anyone working in an establishment dealing with food to hold valid food handlers permit issued on behalf of the Health Department of Utah. Failure to show one during an inspection can attract heavy fines on the individual, yield a low sanitation score, and possibly lead to closing down the establishment.
Importance of Food handlers permit
You may be wondering how a piece of paper can hold such importance in the food industry? The reason is as follows – To receive a food handlers card, the applicant needs to undergo training that explains the different aspects of food management at different stages. This means anyone coming in direct contact with the food in any of the following stages needs to have undergone the training:
- Production – Harvesting the food from farms or from slaughter
- Processing – Creating batches of raw food items for distribution
- Distribution – Farmer’s Market or Grocery Stores
- Storage & Transportation – Deep freeze operators
- Preparation – Restaurants or any other establishment serving food
- Serving – Waiters and bartenders
Owing to the severity of the consequences of improper food handling on the mass, selected public and private organizations are allowed to conduct the training.
The food handlers training imparts sufficient knowledge in the different aspects of food handling such as:
- Food Safety – The different ways any food can be contaminated and the preventive measures for the same
- Food Handlers Hygiene – The different practices for maintaining hygiene of the handler as well as the establishment
- Food temperature and ‘Danger Zone’ – Most pathogens and microbes can survive and multiply in a specific temperature range called ‘Danger Zone’. Learn the best practices while cooking food as well as storing any leftovers to avoid the Danger Zone.
- Different food related allergies
- Common food-borne diseases and sources of the pathogens
Since the world is progressing very quickly, new and improved methods for food handling are discovered. So, most states provide a limited validity of 3 years on every food handlers permit. Post expiration, the holder has to again undergo the training to be eligible for the permit.
The food handlers permit is a certification course wherein an individual has to undergo an exam that tests their knowledge on the basis of the topics covered in the training. Only on clearing the exam with a 75% or more score, an individual is issued food handlers permit.
What if I fail the Food Handlers Permit Test
To err is to be human. Mistakes happen and you may not pass the exam in the first try after completing the training. While many may consider it as the end of the road, it is just a temporary setback. Most training organizations such as Easy Food Handlers have similar rules regarding retaking the exam. The individual can attempt up to three times within a span of 30 days from the training completion to score more than 75% on the test.
Unfortunately, if the individual doesn’t clear the test within three attempts, they need to undergo training after which they can again sit for the test.
What if I pass the Food Handlers Permit Test
Once the individual has scored more than 75% on the 45 question test. It is an indication that they are qualified to handle food professionally based on the knowledge from the training. They can immediately print a temporary food handlers permit and start working. The institution conducting the training and test will notify the local department of health. In the area where the individual is going to work. After 30 days from passing the test, a permanent food handlers permit is sent via mail to the individual. Depending on the validity of the permit, the individual has to again undergo training when the existing permit expires.
When running a food business, food safety is critical. Since the customer trusts you with their food, it is important to uphold that trust by being capable and also hiring capable individuals. Food handlers permit is an indication of capability and is recognized everywhere. By sparing 120 mins to undergo the training and an hour for the test, you can easily become a food handler in a span of one week.