Food safety at your favourite restaurant

Thursday, October 25, 2018

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Whether you have a busy schedule that prevents you from preparing a home-cooked meal or you're planning a night out with friends and family, dining out always offers that convenience with a myriad of cuisine options to choose from. One of the main issues with dining out, however, is the uncertainty surrounding the practices of restaurant owners and employees in storing, preparing and serving or meals. While at home we are able to carry out certain hygienic practices to ensure we prepare our food in a safe manner these practices may not be replicated by our restaurants. Consequently, wew may end up with food-borne illnesses. We therefore need to take note of the following when we visit our favourite restaurants.

Tips for restaurant owners

1 Please ensure that food safety is embedded in your operational core values. Take a proactive approach to prevent contamination of the food you handle during transportation, storage, preparation and serving.

2 ALL employees must have current food handler's permit; however, this does not mean that your employees are fully aware of all required best practices in food handling. Make it your responsibility to continually educate your staff about best food handling practices.

3 Always communicate sensitive issues to customers such as allergenic information and also when you decide to use a substitute in meals that may cause an allergic or sensitivity reaction.

4 Please avoid using the same cutlery and cooking implements to prepare allergenic and allergen-free meals. If you need a reminder, allergenic food include: fish, soybeans, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, shellfish, and wheat.

For Patrons

1 Just as suggested with our supermarkets, take note of the location and state of your restaurant or take-out spot. Is there accumulation of garbage in close vicinity? Is the building in a state of disrepair? Are the counters/tables clean? Are the bathrooms clean? Are clean cloths being used to wipe your table? And this one always baffles me… Is the same cloth being used to wipe your tables used to wipe the chairs you sit on? Visible unsanitary conditions can indicate that the same practices are being carried out where your meal is being prepared. However, your utensils are not the only things that need to be clean.

2 Always observe employee attire and food handling practices. Ensure that employee's hair is fully covered and that they are not wearing jewellery while serving food. Additionally, carefully observe if their attire is clean.

3 Always check your utensils, cups and plates to ensure they are clean.

4 Self-serve restaurants or buffets are more susceptible to contamination — we see these mostly at all-you-can-eat brunches, parties or your all-inclusive hotels. While having unlimited access to all that food is unbelievably enticing, take note of the following before piling your plate to the ceiling:

Ensure the utensils are properly covered — play your part in ensuring that you do not use these utensils to serve more than one item.

Ensure food is covered and kept at an acceptable temperature using warmers.

Ensure cold food is displayed on ice or in a refrigerator.

Also ensure that an attendant is present to assist with any queries and observe if the area is being cleaned periodically.

Avoid eating at buffet lines where individuals are allowed to use their hands in meals.

5 If you order hot food, ensure you get hot food. Avoid accepting lukewarm food. Don't be afraid to ask your server to ensure that your food is served at the correct temperature. In an effort to ensure all patrons at a table get their food at the same time, some restaurants will prepare meals and have them waiting around until all are ready without taking steps to maintain required temperatures.

6 Please note carefully that food-poisoning bacteria are able to grow and multiply on some foods more readily than others. Some of these include: dairy products such as lasagne and custards, coleslaw, eggs and egg meals such as egg salads, raw and cooked meat and poultry. Observe the precautions when ordering these foods.

7 Please try to avoid eating undercooked meat. Ensure that your meats are cooked right through as the cooking process will kill harmful bacteria and parasites present, if any.

8 If you decide to take home food or a “doggy bag”, ensure it's properly packaged and placed in the refrigerator as soon as you get home. These foods can become prone to bacterial growth which may cause food poisoning if they are not stored at the required temperatures.

9 Lastly, please ensure you report all suspected cases of food poisoning to you local Public Health Department!

Marshalee Valentine

CEO-Quality, Food Safety & Environmental Management Systems Consultant

Vally Consulting



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