Food safety is always a priority in a commercial kitchen. Even during busy periods, everyone must take the time to follow proper procedures. Food contamination or mishandling might result in difficulties such as sick guests or bug infestations.
Unfortunately, not all kitchen staff know how quickly food safety procedures can break down. While certifications help, mistakes can still happen. The only way to prevent potential disasters is to remain vigilant and understand the threats that can arise.
Cross-contamination occurs when microbes move from one surface to another, usually with negative consequences. One example is if a worker uses a cutting board for chicken and then uses the same board to cut vegetables. Bacteria from the chicken, including salmonella, would transfer to the vegetables, which could lead to foodborne illnesses.
Unfortunately, cross-contamination can happen quickly, so high standards are crucial. One of the most effective prevention methods is color coding. In this case, everything that touches a particular ingredient (i.e., chicken) uses the same coloration.
Also, a handy sanitizing solution makes it easier for employees to wipe surfaces to kill bacteria and other organisms.
According to research, the average dirty cutting board has more germs than a toilet seat. Dirt, germs, and other debris become trapped inside deep grooves when they become impossible to clean effectively. While regular cleaning and sanitizing can kill most diseases, personnel must take the time to thoroughly clean and sanitize every nook and crevice. It is also necessary to replace outdated cutting boards when they are too damaged to clean adequately.
Foodservice workers wash their hands multiple times daily but might be cleaning them ineffectively to remove all dirt and bacteria. As we all learned over the past few years, washing hands for at least 20 seconds helps prevent the spread of germs in commercial kitchens.
The type of soap used makes a difference as well. Antibacterial foam soap is a better choice because the foam can get into crevices more easily. Make sure that paper towels are handy, not only so a towel can open a door or turn off faucets but also because workers' hands are more likely to transfer germs from one surface to the next if wet.
Food thermometers are vital to help the prevention of food contamination. Often overlooked because many walk-in coolers and freezers have a temperature gauge on the side, the food thermometer provides the actual temperature of the ingredients. Bacteria thrive when food is in the danger zone of between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. So, combining the use of a walk-in thermometer and a food thermometer will ensure everything is at the correct temperature.
Most commercial refrigerators do not maintain constant temperatures throughout the machine. Typically, the temperature in the front of the fridge closest to the door is higher than in the back.
Using insulated containers for certain ingredients can help those items stay cooler in the refrigerator, as can regularly rotating products in the fridge. These tricks also help prevent food waste, a big concern in the foodservice industry.
Most operators assume bacteria and other pathogens can't grow in an ice machine. Unfortunately, that's not the case because mold and other contaminants can spread slowly in cold temperatures. Often, bacteria spread by using bare hands or dirty utensils to pick up the ice. There's also contamination when ice machines aren't cleaned frequently.
Operators must schedule routine ice machine cleanings to minimize this issue. Cleaning the inside and outside of the machines according to the manufacturer's recommendations.
No matter the location, pests can appear in a commercial kitchen. Even the cleanest kitchen has hidden spots where pests like rats, mice and cockroaches can live.
That's because these pests are always looking for free food. This means a slip in cleaning protocol can result in contaminated surfaces and food ingredients. For example, if a worker accidentally leaves food out overnight, the opening next day shift could encounter rats, ants, or cockroaches on counters or in dry goods.
Another challenge is that pest control chemicals are not safe for people. So, operators must be careful about countermeasures, as they don't want to contaminate food prep surfaces. Regular inspections and diligent deep cleaning schedules can help keep pests at bay and prevent unwanted intruders, especially where guests can see them.