Category Archives: Safety Awareness

Guest Blog: 4 Steps to Keep Pesky Pests Away from Commercial Kitchens

Blog contributed by Raymond Webb, Digital Marketing Manager for Take Care Termite and Pest Control.

Wouldn’t it be a nightmare to have the food hygiene inspectors find pests like mice, cockroaches, bugs or moths in your kitchen? It can not only lead to disgruntled customers walking out of your hotels and restaurants but also shrink your possibility of doing business. It is natural for food storage and preparation areas to attract pest. They are also known as pantry pests which include a variety of beetles and moths which permeate food such as rice, grain, beans, nuts pulses, dried fruits, meat and cheese in the kitchen and pantries.

A kitchen has all that it takes for the pests to thrive – food, moisture, heat and shelter. If left unchecked they can proliferate without end. If you are trying to save money on pest control measures it can increase the cost of business in the longer run. It will not increase the cost of replacing damaged stock but also lead to the loss of reputation.

Here are 4 Steps to Prevent Pest Infestation in Commercial Kitchens.

Step 1 – Restrict Potential Entries for Pests – It is important to seal the cracks and crevices in the kitchen to make sure that there are no openings for pests. Professional advice can always be acquired to know the potential entries and neglected points through which pests can penetrate your kitchen.

Step 2 Thorough Inspection of the Hotspots – Finding larvae in the stored food or packaging is common. Moths are fond of grain-based products like flour, cereal, and pasta where they can thrive vigorously as it provides them the favorable condition. Larvae tuck itself in the edges of cans and jars, unopened packages and sealed cans. It is better to get rid of infested foods and wiping off the sealed cans with concentrated vinegar. For a safe extermination it is important to hire a commercial pest control service as professionals can increase the effect of a pest control treatment as they are aware of the source of infestation.

Step 3 – Declutter – This is a mandatory procedure to keep your pantry and kitchen free from pests. Vacuum the shelves to get rid of remaining moths and cocoons. A 50-50 solution of white vinegar and warm water can kill the remaining eggs. By adding peppermint oil to vinegar and cleaning the shelves you can prevent the infestations of pantry moths, spiders, cockroaches, mice and ants.

It is unsafe to keep the infested items indoors as it can spread all over the kitchen if left unchecked.

Step 4 – Proper Storage – Use air-tight containers like mason jars and Tupperware because they keep your food fresh and prevents pantry pests from lurking around. Make sure you wash and dry the containers once they are empty before returning them to your clean pantry. This ensures that you are not overlooking any signs of infestation or hidden eggs.

These steps are a great way to prevent pests from taking over your kitchen and pantry. If you find your kitchen infested already you may want to call a pest control professional who will be able to get rid of the infestation and since it is a matter of hygiene of food substances any potential threat of pests should be investigated and taken out. It’s crucial to detect issues early on as it can help save a lot of inconvenience down the road.

Central Restaurant Products carries a variety of products to help with pest control. Browse Central’s selection here.

Author Bio:

When people find their homes and offices infested with pests, it is not uncommon for them to panic. Raymond Web has taken upon him the task to educate people on pest prevention and control strategies helping them keep their surroundings healthy, safe and pest-free. Being the digital marketing manager for Take Care Termite and Pest Control, in Tracy, CA, he has in-depth understanding of people and their pain points due to pests, which he efficiently uses in his content to educate people and add value to their lives.

Tuesday Tip: Revisit Common Food Safety Practices this Fourth of July Holiday!

Happy Fourth of July!

As we celebrate our nation’s independence over this holiday, it is common for restaurants to experience increased volume. As Restaurant.org points out, it is always important to follow proper food safety, but this increased traffic provides an opportunity to revisit some basics. Here are a few quick food safety tips via Restaurant.org.

  1. Keep food out of the temperature danger zone

With this increase in volume, there is a tendency to bring out large quantities of ingredients to make prep time quicker. However, it’s important to make sure these ingredients don’t fall below the danger temperature mark. To avoid this, only pull out limited quantities. Shop our large selection of food prep thermometers here.

  1. Double-check sanitizer concentration levels

Any surface in which food comes into contact with must be cleaned and sanitized. When there’s need for quick table turns, this sometimes gets overlooked. Assign someone on the shift to check sanitizer levels every hour. Shop cleaning supplies here.

  1. Wash your hands

This may seem obvious, but it is the most important element of good food safety, and the easiest way to reduce the risk of cross contamination. The faster we work, the less inclined we are to slow down for handwashing. Keep all sinks stocked with soap and reinforce this importance with your staff. Shop soap and restroom supplies here.

danger zone

What Is The Temperature Danger Zone? Tips to Keep Food Safe

Temperature Danger Zone

Often times when cooking, it is easy to remember the temperatures food should be to kill bacteria, however, there comes a point in temperature where foods are susceptible for rapid bacterial growth. This is when they enter “the temperature danger zone,” which is anywhere between +41ºF to +135ºF.

temperature danger zoneTime-Temperature Abuse

Foods reach the temperature danger zone when they are left too long within that temperature range. This is known as “time-temperature abuse.”

Time-temperature abuse quickly creates an environment for foodborne microorganisms to grow which can make guests sick. According to the Certified Food Safe Professional (CFSP) program, there are three ways time-temperature abuse can occur:

  • Cooked or raw foods are not held or stored at required temperatures
  • Food is not cooked or re-heated to a temperature to kill microorganisms
  • Foods are not cooled properly

Bacterial Growth in Food

For bacteria to survive in food, all it needs is moisture, heat and oxygen. The temperature danger zone is the most ideal environment to get all three. When the environment is right, bacteria will multiply very quickly.

Using an example from the CFSP program, bacteria can double their amounts at the following temperatures:

  • +100ºF: Every 15 minutes
  • +50ºF: Every 15 hours
  • +36ºF: Every 15 days
  • 0ºF: Most bacteria is dormant

How to Reduce Risk of Harmful Bacteria

Avoiding time-temperature abuse and keeping foods out of the temperature danger zone at a food service reduces the risk of customers contracting a foodborne illness.

Dave Crump, a CFSP product consultant at Central, advised managers to do routine walk-throughs to make sure employees are following proper procedures. This is how his management team ensured safety when he was in the restaurant industry.

“Managers had to do walk-throughs two-to-three times a day checking stations and products to see,” he explained. “That’s when we would find that something might not be held or stored properly. Without that, you fall into products falling into the danger zone.”

In addition to Dave’s advice, below are ways the CFSP program suggests for operators to limit growth:

  1. proper food storingDefrost frozen foods choose one of the following methods: Under refrigeration at +41ºF or lower, submerged under running water at +70ºF, in a microwave or as a part of the cooking process
  2. Cook food until it reaches +165ºF for 15 seconds (this temperature kills bacteria)
  3. If holding food, keep hot foods at +135ºF and cold food under +41ºF
  4. Use two-stage cooling to chill leftover foods by taking them from +135ºF to +70ºF within two hours and then from +70ºF to +41ºF in four hours or less
  5. Keep food in wide shallow containers to allow food to obtain maximum cooling in a short period of time
  6. Use caution with high-protein foods as they are more susceptible for bacterial contamination–which especially includes foods that have been ground, chopped, etc. such as hamburger or eggs
  7. Properly cover all foods placed in a refrigerator so they are protected against contaminates above them
  8. If compatible with the food type or recipe, try to bring the pH level of a food to an acidic state of 7.6 pH or higher by adding in ingredients such as apples, vinegar or tomatoes
  9. Do not let foods be out-of-refrigeration for no more than four hours of cumulative time from preparation to serving

Equipment and Supplies to Help Combat Contamination

There are a wide variety of products to help food services stay out of the temperature danger zone and keep guests safe. For example, blast chillers quickly take hot food to cool food safe temperatures for storage. Also, there are a wide variety of food service supplies with built-in antimicrobial protection with materials that kill or inhibit bacterial growth.

And last, we couldn’t write a blog about the danger zone without mentioning… the DANGER zone! Although in the food service industry, stay out of the danger zone!

Image at top photo credit: USDAgov / Foter / CC BY

Stay Out of the Doghouse; Know the Laws Surrounding Service Animals

“No dog. Get out. Just get out.” These were the words James Malone heard when he visited a Sacramento area restaurant with his service dog Hilton earlier this year.

Hilton is a black lab that helps his owner maneuver through everyday tasks. James is blind. Hilton acts as his eyes, and according to the Service Animals provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act, persons with disabilities are permitted to bring any dog (and in some cases, miniature horse) that is individually trained to perform a task for their owner into any public area of your business. This includes restaurants, stores and restrooms. This provision even supersedes local or state health codes that prohibit animals. This restaurant owner later admitted he didn’t know what the ADA laws allowed, but said he would train his employees to understand and follow the guidelines. Do you know how your employees would handle the situation?

Know the Law and Minimize Your Liability

The Department of Justice created a simple document outlining the ADA regulations.

The Department of Justice’s simple document on service animals.

Understanding the ADA, including the Service Animals provisions, is serious business. As an example, California law allows a person denied entry to an establishment (due to ADA violations) the right to sue the business for up to $4000. Knowing the regulations can help you both limit your liability and help you to continue to serve these valuable customers.

While it may be easy to recognize a service animal when it is wearing an identifying vest or actively pulling a wheelchair, it is important to realize that service animals can provide many more life-protecting tasks. The National Restaurant Association outlines some of these tasks in a recent Manage My Restaurant article.

“…a service animal can alert its handler to an oncoming epilepsy seizure. Other dogs perform specific tasks for individuals with psychiatric disabilities, such as disrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. Those animals can remind their handlers to take medicine, separate them from their environments or conduct safety searches or room checks for people with post-traumatic stress disorder.”

It is important that a protected service animal is not considered a pet, but a working animal. They are trained not only to help their owners, but behave appropriately in public environments. Unless the service animal is disruptive to your other patrons or uncontrollable by its owner, the best course of action for all is to allow the animal and owner access to your business.

How to Handle The Situation

If a customer comes to patronize your business with their service animal -treat them like any other valued customer. Remember, ADA regulations prevent you from asking animal owners to present ID cards or training documentation. If in doubt, your employees should only ask these two permitted questions:

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

While it is not permissible to forceably isolate the service animal and owner for other patrons, you can politely ask them if they wish a table out of a higher traffic area, or if a specific table might be advantageous in allowing the animal to perform its trained task. Also, you may have to placate other patrons of your business. Fear of dogs or allergies are not legitimate reasons for denying entry to a service animal. If a patron has concerns, you should remind them that the animal is permitted under ADA regulations and offer to move them to a different table or location.

The only permissible reasons for asking an owner to remove their service animal is if it becomes uncontrollable or is not housebroken. If this situation occurs, the ADA regulations require you to still serve the owner without the animal’s presence.

Shop Central for ADA-Compliant Equipment

ADA-Compliant Worktop Refrigerator with a lower 34" working height

ADA-Compliant Worktop Refrigerator with a lower 34″ working height

While Central Restaurant many not sell service dogs, we do have a wide variety of ADA-Compliant equipment that can help your serve customers and employees with disabilities in a respectful and convenient manor.

Several of our refrigeration vendors offer Prep Tables and Worktop Refrigerators with a lower 34″ working height that allow employees or customers in wheelchairs easier access. Ensuring your restroom facilities are ADA-friendly can also go a long way with your customers. Check our our selection of ADA-compliant hand dryers, sinks and faucets.

Our product consultant team can also help you find more ADA-Compliant products when you call them at 800-215-9293 or start an instant chat.

Kidsitter 597-018

The Kidsitter™ is More than Just a ‘High Chair’

If you run a restaurant or other establishment with family seating, you know it is important that your littlest guests are safe and happy. Because without happy children and infants, their parents not patronize your place as often.

The Problem with the ‘High Chair’

Everyone is familiar with the conventional high chair or booster seat. It works for grat toddlers, giving them a seat at the table like everyone else. But parents with infants have no great choice for placing their child. They are usually forced to place their infant’s car seat in one of the several undesirable locations – on the tabletop, balanced on a nearby chair, or sitting on a dirty floor. Some servers may even suggest flipping a current high chair upside-down, creating a top-heavy stand. It is usually inconvenient, unsafe and detracts from the entire dining experience.

Kidsitter™ to the Rescue

KidSitter™ 2 in 1 :Logo

The Kidsitter is more than just a high chair

Central Specialties Foodservice (CSL) saw these problems and looked to solve them for restaurant owners. The result was the next revolution in child seating — the Kidsitter™. It is actually a two-in-one chair that offers a unique and exclusive design for child and infant seating options that are unavailable from other commercial high chair manufacturers.

For toddlers, it functions as a traditional high chair with comfortable seating and a safety strap. But, with a quick flip of the seat, it converts into a stable dock for almost any design of infant car seat. The Kidsitter’s™ structure is spaced to accept the weight and balance of an occupied seat, and the extra long safety strap keeps the seat secure even during the wildest temper tantrum. The infant and seat are now safely and securely part of the dining experience and conversation.

The Kidsitter™ in action

The Kidsitter™ offers a secure place for your customer’s car seats

The innovations and advantages of the Kidsitter™ do not end there. KidSitters™ are durable and resist the nicks and scratches caused from everyday use. The strong, lightweight plastic is easy to clean, using even the strongest commercial cleaning solutions.

For an extra charge, the KidSitter™ is available with casters (ask your product consultant) and all units can be stacked to save space. Central Restaurant offers the Kidsitter in several frame and base colors too.

Learn More Through Central Restaurant

Because videos can explain the features and applications of a product better than any text description, CSL created an informative video on their Kidsitter™. Check it out here, or watch the video on Central Restaurant’s product page for Kidsitter™ Multi Use Plastic High Chair – where you can easily order it today and keep your new moms and dads happy the next time they dine out with you!

food allergies

National Food Safety Month: Food Safety Awareness on Food Allergies

Food Allergy Awareness

Each September is the National Restaurant Association’s “Food Safety Month.” This year they are putting an emphasis on food safety awareness in terms of food allergies. Over 15 million Americans suffer from food allergies, many of which are very serious and can be life threatening.  It’s important that members of the restaurant and foodservice industry understand how serious these allergies are and what measures can be taken to ensure a safe meal for customers.

Of the millions of American who suffer from food allergies, Food Allergy Research and Education said 90 percent of food allergies come from peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. Those who have one of these, or any of the other allergies, can see symptoms anywhere from a few minutes after contact to even several hours after. In some extreme situations, action must be taken quickly.

food allergies

Impact on Restaurants and Color Coding for Prevention

With food allergies becoming more prevalent, the foodservice industry is having to adapt to ensure the safety for their guests. Now more than ever menus are becoming more detailed to help customers with food allergies avoid certain dishes. However, it goes beyond informing a guest of an ingredient to protect them from a serious reaction.

Avoiding cross-contamination is crucial. Even a trace of an item in a dish can pose serious risks to someone. One of the best ways to avoid cross-contamination is to have a color system set up in the back of the house. Many suppliers have created color coded products such as cutting boards, knives and gloves, to ensure specific items are only used with the correlating food. These colors are only placed in certain areas of the kitchen and never moved. For instance anything red would be used in the butcher’s area and anything white would stay in the bakery.

Colors for the cross-contamination color system include:

  • Red: Meat
  • Yellow: Poultry
  • Green: Fruits and Vegetables
  • Tan/Brown: Fish and Seafood
  • Blue: Cooked Foods
  • White: General Use
  • Purple: Allergy

food allergiesMisconceptions and Proper Communication

Another important thing for restaurants to remember is to communicate properly. In a June 2012 blog, Sloane Miller, MSW, LMSW, author and advocate (AllergicGirl.com), told us it’s all about communication on both ends–from the person with the allergy and the staff.

Miller explained if a customer comes to a restaurant, and that restaurant doesn’t feel they can 100 percent accommodate their needs, it’s okay to tell them that. If a restaurant has knowledge about food allergies, they need to know they are important and must be taken seriously. One of the biggest misconceptions Miller explained was that “a little bit won’t hurt.”

A breakdown of communication is another way mistakes happen.  For instance a waiter may relay the message a customer has a shellfish allergy that doesn’t get passed down the line.  Someone could have just prepared a dish and sent it off, and another person may prepare the customer with a food allergy’s dish in the same area. Small traces of shellfish could accidentally be included in the entree causing an immediate reaction. This is why the color system is important for kitchens.

Training

The best way to handle any situation is to become informed. The National Restaurant Association recommends the ServSafe® Allergens Online course and assessment.  It covers many areas including identifying allergens, communication, cross-contamination prevention, food labels and more.

food allergiesProducts

Central has several products to help restaurants and foodservices stay organized and prepared for guests with food allergies.

One of the most recent items we’ve added is San Jamar’s Allergen-Saf-T-Zone™ System.  This system is a kit that includes a cutting board, tongs, turner and chef’s knife which allows restaurants to only use this kit for customers with food allergies.

Central also offers San Jamar’s Allergen Saf-T-Zone™ cutting boards in a variety of widths and depths. These boards have rulers to make portioning easy and list out the eight different foods that should not be used for quick reference. This is the same board included in the Allergen-Saf-T-Zone™ System.

Our Value Series line of products includes an allergen thermometer.  It’s purple color alerts kitchen staff to only use it for special food allergen preparation. There is an empty space in the Allergen-Saf-T-Zone™ System for a thermometer making this one a great buy to fit in with the purple scheme.

Learn about other ways to avoid cross-contamination on our Cross-Contamination Prevention Guide.  You can also contact a product consultant at 800-215-9293 for help finding food allergy solutions for your restaurant.

Additional Resources for Disaster Relief – Restaurants and Businesses

Just after Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, we posted the blog Disaster Recovery Resources for Restaurants and Business Owners.  We have found even more resources since we wanted to share.

Phones down? Free Phone Service

For companies experiencing down phone lines, Twilio, a cloud communications company, has announced they are providing free phone service to businesses in New York and New Jersey that have lost connectivity.

“We’ll  help build a temporary replacement phone line for you.  You’ll be connected with a Twilio volunteer who will build you a temporary phone tree, call queue or voicemail system to help your business operate until your service is restored,” they said.  Put in a request through their Hurricane Sandy Phone Recovery Program.

Tips for Insurance Claims

The National Restaurant Association has put together a few steps for restaurants for filing insurance claims.  Read full details on the NRA’s website.

Loans, Temporary Placement and Other Emergency Assistance

The Union Square Partnership (USP) has listed on their website New York City business assistance programs for small, mid-sized and large businesses.  Also, while it won’t necessarily work for a kitchen, they stated there is “short-term swing office space” at the Brooklyn Army terminal–free of charge.

Call 311 and ask for NYC business solutions for details.  You can also call 311 and speak with someone in NYC business solutions about the SBS Business Outreach Team and Emergency Response Unit’s Large Scale Response Team. USP has also provided a bullet list of to-dos after a major disaster.

IRS Return Filing and Tax Payments

The IRS has pushed back their deadline for return filing and tax payment for businesses affected by the hurricane to Feb. 1, 2013.  For more information visit the IRS’ Tax Relief Disaster Situations page.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance

The federal program Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) provides financial assistance to those who have become unemployed due to a major disaster declared by the President.  If you fall in this category, visit UnemployedWorkers.org to see if you qualify and how you can apply.

FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers

FEMA has disaster recovery centers set up so those in need of assistance programs can apply, get more information, etc.  Search for a disaster recovery center in your area, and visit their website for information about services.

Gluten-Free/Allergy Free

If you are looking for places to donate gluten-free or allergy-free foods, Sloane Miller of Allergic Girl Inc. has provided a list of resources for New York and New Jersey.  Erin Smith of Gluten-Free Fun has also provided information on her blog as well. Keep in mind when making any type of donation (food, clothing, etc), please check with the agency/location in advance to make sure you are providing them with a donation they can accept.

 

Disaster Recovery Resources for Restaurant and Business Owners (Last Update: Nov. 5)

A natural disaster as epic and catastrophic as Hurricane Sandy was not anything anyone ever expected to see or experience.  The estimated cost of the damage continues to rise, with one York Dispatch article estimating it may cost up to $50 billion, with $10 to $30 billion of that lost in business.

Business will now have to use their continuity plans to move forward.  However, many probably never planned for an event as destructive as Hurricane Sandy and are in need of disaster recovery resources.

Disaster Assistance and FEMA

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) advises businesses in need of assistance to apply for disaster relief through DisasterAssistance.gov.  They help determine which type of assistance businesses need, provide applications and convenient ways to check the status of an application.

In addition to online, people can also call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. EDT at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).  Those with internet access can follow FEMA on their website, blog, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube page for continuous updates and safety information.  Those without internet but do have cell phone service can use the FEMA smartphone app or sign up for regular FEMA text updates.

The Small Business Association (SBA) is offering assistance as well.  SBA says “businesses can apply for damages to their real estate or business or business contents and for economic loss.”  Those who would like to apply can do so online through the Electronic Loan Application.

Other places businesses can apply for assistance include: IRS Disaster Assistance and Emergency Relief (scroll to the “For Businesses” section), FEMA’s Crisis Counseling, Disaster Unemployment Assistance, legal services and special tax considerations and Business Recovery Fund Assistance.

Cleanup, Food and Safety

There are several precautions that must be taken when cleaning up after a natural disaster.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Emergency Preparedness and Response page includes information on how to go about the cleanup process.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also includes information for those recovering from a hurricane in the hurricane recovery portion of their website.

Food safety is critical.  Food Safety News includes several tips in their article Hurricane Food Safety 101 in regards to storage, power outages and flooding.

Nov. 5 UPDATE:

As we’ve blogged many times at Central, food allergies are very serious and in such a devastating time, those with allergies not only have to deal with the devastation, but also have to be even more aware about any food they accept.  Victoria Reitano of Staten Island has started an initiative to bring gluten-free, allergy free food to Hurricane Sandy victims.  Read her latest blog.

Also, read a blog post from Sloane Miller of Allergic Girl Inc. regarding food allergies and the hurricane on her blog.

Power

For those without power, the Huffington Post reports the Department of Energy (DOE) is “working with states and local partners as the electric industry engages in power restoration efforts.”  At this point, the best thing to do if you’re without power is to have patience.  For information, the DOE has situation reports on their website that are updated as regularly as possible.

Google also has a map with power outage information, with the options to view shelters and recovery centers, FEMA disaster declared areas, traffic conditions and other information.

The CDC provides worker safety resources and other tips when going through a hurricane or storm.

Wages/Pay

For the employers in need of information about pay, Business and Legal Resources released an article with an overview of federal laws applicable for emergency situations including: Pay for employees (FLSA), nonexempt employees, exempt employees and employees on leave (FMLA).

Through this disaster, the goal of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) “is to proivde resources and assistance to members of the impacted payroll and practitioner community.”  Employers can find this information on the IRS’  Disaster Relief Resource Center for Tax Professionals.

Jeffrey S. Nowak of Franczek Radelet Attorneys and Counselors addressed some questions and issues employers may have such as “how do you you pay your employees during suspended operations?” and “Whether and to what extent should health benefits and other benefits be offered.”

Nov. 5 UPDATE:

The IRS has moved the return filing and tax payment deadline to Feb. 1, 2013 for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.  Read more details in this article.

USPS

The hurricane has also interrupted mail service through the United States Postal Service (USPS).  Find information about mailings, FedEx transportation, drop shipments and other information on the About page on the USPS website.  Business owners with questions can visit the USPS’ RIBBS National Customer Support Center.