Farm to School
October is National Farm to School Month, a time that encourages reflection and appreciation of the hard work our dedicated farmers do for all of us on a daily basis. Farm to school places special emphasis on the relationship between schools and local food producers devoted to delivering fresh, healthy foods to thousands of students on a daily basis. Organizations like the National Farm to School Network use this time to reach out to local communities, educating and advocating for strengthening these local relationships between communities and local food providers with the goal of filling every student’s tray with a healthy lunch full of local ingredients.
As the demand for locally sourced produce increases across the nation, this month also provides an opportunity to revisit proper food safety. I recently had an opportunity to sit down with Corporate Chefs Chris Gardner and Jeff White to learn more about the importance of food safety, and tactics every foodservice employee should follow to properly ensure the well-being of their hungry guests.
We started the conversation by establishing a basic understanding of the importance of food safety.
Every year, roughly 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from food-borne diseases. This part of why Gardner and White emphasized HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) and ServSafe as key components of everything they do because, stating that in any environment, be it a five-star restaurant or a fast-food joint, you have a much lower risk of getting sick from the food because the operators practice their guidelines.
There are food-borne illnesses and cross-contamination everywhere, and special consideration must be made for those with allergies. In these situations, cross-contamination can lead to severe illness. If you work in a school or restaurant, this could lead to lawsuits and lost business. The protocols laid forth by the HACCP and ServSafe provide expert tactics and proper protocol to avoid this.
Local produce starts on the farm, and is transported to the manufacturer immediately after harvest. It isn’t until the stock reaches the manufacturer that proper cleansing begins. “From the field to where the manufacturing plant is, there isn’t usually a lot of wash. It’s once they get to the plant where wash cycles begin,” Chris says. This process is usually documented so by chance there was an outbreak, manufacturers can track it back to its origins in order to isolate and prevent its spread.
In today’s foodservice world, establishments and institutions are using a lot of pre-packaged foods, such as salad mix. The companies packaging these products are using HACCP guidelines for extra insurance that they will not result in a foodborne illness. However, it is still important to rinse the product thoroughly before preparing for consumption. Many of the products use chemical preservatives to extend the shelf life. While this is not necessarily a negative in and of itself, these chemicals were not meant to be ingested.
When working in institutions such as schools, and preparing daily lunches in bulk, properly cleansing products is a time-consuming task. This brings us to Duke Manufacturing’s new X-Green™ Produce Safety System.
The X-Green™ Produce Safety System
This produce safety system allows the user to thoroughly soak all varieties of fruits and vegetables in bulk, ensuring their proper handling while saving labor. It includes many settings, from soaking in cold water, to injecting Fit® wash solution to remove pesticides, wax, soil and bacteria.
This product enhances your HACCP program, and when combined with Fit produce wash, destroys up to 99.99% of the harmful bacteria that causes food-borne illness. It has even been tested and validated by the U.S. Navy for its effectiveness at cleaning fresh produce, as well as reducing labor.
The system offers a number of innovative features to assist in improving quality and verifying food safety compliance:
- Automatic injection of wash agent to ensure correct pH levels
- Programmable wash cycles, which can be custom tailored to your operation
- Timer alarms to signal cycle completion, which allows your staff to multi-task
- Statistical reporting and labeling for food safety compliance
- Batch processing at high volumes, leading to reduced food deliveries and costs
The X-Green Produce Safety System is fast, efficient, easy to use, improves product quality, saves labor, and enhances food safety compliance – the number one priority for every foodservice operation. It will be available for sale on Central’s website in the near future.
If you would like more information about HACCP standards, click here.
You may also enjoy this post on ways to reduce the risk of cross-contamination, even in the busiest kitchen environments.