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Foodborne illness prevention

People get sick when they eat food that is contaminated. People can get sick if germs, viruses, pesticides, or cleaning products get into food or drinks they consume. Some of the key safety steps to prevent foodborne illness to patrons and staff include:

  • Identifying foodborne hazards
  • Following washing and hygiene rules
  • Handling food service items safely to prevent contamination
  • Receiving, storing, and cooking food properly
  • Washing dishes and equipment correctly

Identify foodborne hazards

Some foods are more likely to grow germs than others. Potentially hazardous foods are commonly; meat, fish, poultry, milk, refried beans, cooked rice, and baked potatoes. Bacteria are the most common type of germ. They grow fast and may spoil food or cause foodborne illness. One common bacteria is salmonella, which is found in dairy foods, poultry, and eggs. Salmonella can cause very serious food poisoning.

Viruses can also cause foodborne illness. Viruses can travel through the air and contaminate foods and liquids. A person may be infected with a virus and spread the disease unknowingly. For example, Hepatitis A can be spread when a food service worker with the virus does not wash his or her hands after using the restroom and then handles food.

Another type of foodborne illness is caused by parasites. Parasites are tiny organisms that live in fish and meat. They die when the food is frozen or when it's adequately cooked.

Follow washing and hygiene rules

To get rid of the contamination that causes foodborne illness, you need to wash your hands and forearms often when working with food and drinks. Food service workers should also wear a hair covering or net and a beard restraint to prevent hair from contacting food, equipment and utensils. Hygiene best practices also include keeping fingernails clean and trimmed and refraining from wearing fingernail polish or artificial nails. Additionally, do not wear jewelry on your arms or fingers to prevent contamination. Also, always wear clean work clothing and aprons.

Employees must not work while sick. It is easy to spread germs, bacteria, or viruses when you sneeze or cough and touch food, dishes, utensils, counters, and equipment. It could also make other employees sick.

Handle food service items safely to prevent contamination

Food service workers should not touch ready-to-eat food with bare hands. Other best practices include; not using the same utensils from raw food to raw food and disposing of single-use gloves after the task is complete. In contrast, cut-resistant gloves are appropriate for direct contact with food that will be cooked. Equipment, such as meat slicers or grinders, and cutting boards must be cleaned and sanitized after each use. New tableware and plates must be used for second portions, such as use at buffet-style establishments. Also, servers should be aware not to touch the lip of the glass when refilling a customer's beverage.

Receive, store, and cook food properly

Refrigerated foods must be at or below a temperature of 41° F. Potentially hazardous food that is cooked and received hot must be received at or above a temperature of 140° F. Food that is shipped frozen must remain frozen once received without evidence of previous thaw and refreeze. Furthermore, food packages that show signs of being opened cannot be used.

To prevent cross-contamination, keep all food types separate during storage and preparation. In the refrigerator, store raw meat, fish, and poultry under ready-to-eat food in order to prevent dripping onto the prepared foods. Use separate equipment to prepare each type of food and keep meat, fish, and poultry separate.

Store food in labeled and dated covered containers. Items that do not need to be covered include whole uncut fruits and vegetables, primal cuts of meat on hooks or racks and processed meats in racks. To avoid dripping, place everything on a tray or in a container. Furthermore, wash raw fruits and vegetables in water to remove soil and other contaminants before they are prepared.

Food stock should be rotated, using older food first. Always store food in a clean, dry location where it won't be exposed to contamination and at least 6 inches above the floor. Finally, food stock should also be away from all nonfoods items.

Bacteria and other germs need time, food, and moisture to grow, but they can't grow when the temperature of the food is colder than 45° F or hotter than 140° F. Use a food thermometer to make sure foods are properly cooked to prevent foodborne illness. Place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat or the center of the food:

  • Poultry - no less 165° F
  • Ground beef - no less 155° F
  • Rare beef can safely be cooked to 130° F as long as it is promptly served
  • Pork - no less 150° F
  • Lamb, fish, and seafood - no less than 140° F

Wash dishes and equipment correctly

Hand wash dishes by following a five-step process:

  • Scrape off and discard food and grease
  • In the first sink, wash in a solution that is maintained at or above 110º F
  • In the second sink, rinse everything well in clean, warm water
  • In the third sink, sanitize to destroy bacteria. If you use immersion in hot water for sanitizing, the temperature of the sanitizing solution must be maintained at or above 171º F. Chlorine bleach or other chemicals approved by the public health department can also be used as sanitizers.
  • Completely air dry in a rack before putting away or reusing

Main points to remember about food service safety:

  • Wash hands often on the job
  • Don't work when you're sick
  • Keep food out of the danger zone
  • Follow all rules for safe food handling and storage
  • Keep food service materials and equipment clean and safe
Source: BLR- Business & Legal Resources