Operations – Food Safety

Achieving success in anything requires focus.  Avoid most food safety problems by focusing on:

  1. Ingredient selection
  2. Checking product when received
  3. Simple handling and preparation standards
  4. Employee training and accountability

Ingredient selection is important, not only to achieve the quality of the finished product you desire, but also to protect your most important investment – your business.  Sourcing of food ingredients is truly global so pay attention to country of origin of product, not just the address of the distributor or even where it is packaged.  For example, mushrooms are commonly sourced from the USA, Canada, China and India.  Mushrooms are a low acid product like most vegetables, and if processed incorrectly can carry botulism, which may cause death if used.  The #1 lesson is to make sure you’re sourcing from a reliable company which has a long and consistent record of quality production.  For example, despite the price, we recommend not using mushrooms from China because of the incidents of unregistered ingredients found in other Chinese sourced products.  But it is most important to know and trust the source plant.

Receiving and product storage is also crucial.  Canned products in general are probably the most safe to use because they are heat sterilized.  Canned products also do not need to be refrigerated and have a long shelf life, often three years from the pack date.  But any dented cans, particularly any dent along the rim or the seam should be rejected and returned.  Refrigerated and frozen products are much more sensitive to receive and store.  Both should be checked upon arrival to make sure that they are at an acceptable temperature.  Cold goods should be received at 41 degrees F or below.  Frozen products must still be frozen.  Make sure that cold and frozen goods are put away first.  Caution to anyone trying to save money by picking up product at a depot or big box store.  In many states it is illegal to transport without proper refrigeration, and it certainly is asking for trouble.  Any savings certainly are penny-wise and a foolish decision.

Handling and preparation are where many operators are most vulnerable.  This is particularly true because of staff turnover and minimal supervision.  So it is very important to make it easy to follow good food handling practices.  Since fresh (cold) meats and poultry are especially susceptible to contamination and bacteria growth, make sure they are handled in a separate area using separate cutting utensils.  Cross-contamination with vegetables is the main cause of problems.  Color-coded cutting boards and utensils are an easy and inexpensive fix.

Employee training on safe food handling practices and hand washing is a key to everything else.  Hands should be washed properly every time an employee uses the restroom, takes a break or even sneezes.  Gloves should be worn at all times when handling food, and should be changed whenever a task is changed, but especially after working with any meat.

Processing plants and distributors have instituted simple check sheets requiring employee initials to ensure that certain repetitive tasks are completed.  These are usually required now to achieve a quality accreditation.  The time will come when this is required for commercial restaurants.  But you should do it now because it WILL PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS that you’ve worked so hard to build.

Delco Foods can assist you in implementing safe food handling practices.  We are AIB (American Institute of Baking) certified with the highest rating and have ongoing programs within the warehouse and on our trucks to ensure that foods are stored and delivered safely to your door.  Talk to your sales representative for more information.

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