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.
The human body is a very complex system, and a foreign pathogen can wreak havoc in it. The most common way for the pathogens to enter is through contaminated food. Even though they are present everywhere, when the food is handled correctly, the pathogens have no way to enter (or survive) in the food and remain fit for consumption.
Hence, in the restaurant and hospitality industry, your business’s success depends heavily on the food handlers you have in your team. Clients trust their food with the food handlers and assume that they are being prepared and handled with care. To maintain the level of trust, it is essential to hire people with appropriate knowledge and credentials. this is why it is mandatory to have a ‘Food Handlers Permit’ before working in a restaurant or offering professional food handling services. Establishments have been fined or even closed under the pretext of improper food handling practices and lack of the correct documentation.
What is a Food Handlers Permit?
Different states and municipalities call it by different names. Still, if a restaurant asks for any of the following documents, they are looking for a document that confirms that they are skilled and knowledgeable in food handling.:
- Food Handlers Card
- Food Handlers Certificate
- Food Handlers Permit
In a nutshell, a Food Handlers Permit denotes that the holder has undertaken training in food handling and it is aware of the different precautions to take while working with food. To get your food handlers to permit, you need to take a course and pass an exam based on it. The certification can be availed from private training academies or public bodies.
Recommended: The Danger Zone: This Is What Happens When Food Is Kept At The Wrong Temperatures
Who should get a Food Handler Permit?
Ideally, every staff, working in a restaurant needs to get their food handler permits. Food regulation laws in most U.S. states require at least one certified staff member present on-site at all times, whereas, in Utah, it is important for all the staff to need to have a permit. People coming in direct or indirect contact with the food at any stage of its preparation cycle should have a food handlers permit.
How would attending a Food Handler Course help me take the test?
From the production stage, i.e., procurement of raw ingredients to processing, packaging, transportation, cooking, and serving it on the customer’s table, food can undergo chemical changes that allow pathogens to enter the food and multiply rapidly. A Food handler course offers online training, additional resources that explains in detail about:
- An overview of food safety
- Various hygiene-related practices
- Brief about the ‘Danger Zone’ & the Importance of food temperature
- A breakdown of different illnesses and the pathogens causing them
- A list of different allergens triggered by certain ingredients
Most food handler courses are 90-120 mins long, and the exam is about 45 questions long. You need to score at least 75% to be certified. Different states have different criteria related to the time period after employment to become certified. Check with your local authorities to understand the time period in your state.
Once you have been certified, Congratulations! You are a professional who has acquired enough knowledge about contact with food and food handling in general. Another point to remember when it comes to getting your food handler permit is that the certification has a time validity of 3-5 years, after which you need to renew by giving the exam again.
Why choose Easy Food Handlers for Getting your Food Handler Permit?
Easy Food Handlers, LLC is a Utah-based company with innumerous years of experience in the field of food safety and food handling. Our food handling course is a 75-minute long video divided into four sections with a quiz after each section. We included examples from real-life incidents in a restaurant. Get 75% or above in our 40 questions quiz at the end of the video viewing to become a certified Food handler. You get two tries to pass the exam within a week of taking the test if you fail in your first attempt.
Your temporary permit is ready to download while we submit your information to the local health department. Within 30 days of your test, you shall receive your Food Handler Permit via US Mail that is valid for three years.
In a nutshell,
- 75-minute video divided into 4 section
- A quiz after each section
- 40 question quiz at the end of the session
- Total three tries for passing the exam
As you may have learned by now, the food handler permit you receive is recognized by the state authorities to indicate that you have received training and are now capable enough to handle food professionally. As long as you periodically renew your certification, you can lay assured that you will not worry about serving contaminated food to your customers.