Did you know? The sixth largest contributing factor to foodborne illness is cross contamination. If just one customer gets a foodborne illness at your restaurant, it can spell disaster for your image. Cross contamination is easy to prevent by using color coding.
There really is no substitute for cleaning and sanitization of your cutlery and cutting boards after use, but color coding your food prep supplies lessens the likelihood of cross contamination. Color coding allows employees to quickly identify which cutting boards, knives, cut resistant gloves and utensils should be used for a specific food.
What Do the Colors Represent?
For more information on color coding your smallwares, see our Buying Guide! Shop Central for a vast array of products that can help prevent foodborne illnesses and keep your restaurant running safely.
Did you know that September is National Food Safety month? If you did not, it’s probably because a successful restaurant operator knows that food safety is important every month…every day…and every hour. Their customers and employees expect it.
2014 is the National Restaurant Association’s 20th year of National Food Safety Month
According to the NFSM website, the event was created in 1994 by the National Restaurant Association to heighten awareness about the importance of food safety education. Each year has a different theme and for 2014 they highlight ‘20 tips for 20 years of National Food Safety Month‘ through videos, posters and training materials.
Step By Step; Week By Week
All the materials are based in ServSafe®Food Safety Training Programs and broken into four weeks of general themes: Week 1: Cleaning and Santiizing Week 2: Cross-Contamination Week 3: Time-Temperature Control Week 4: Personal Hygiene Week 5: Allergens Operators can use the videos and quizzes on the site to educate their employees about the issues in simple terms. For example, a week 1 video on Cleaning and Sanitizing explained how bar surfaces where drink garnishes are cut need to be treated the same as a kitchen food prep surface. The video continues by showing the steps to safely treat that surface. http://youtu.be/m8RT3JOUqXo In week 2, the quiz asks a question to remind employees to always store fruits and vegetables above meats in the refrigerator to eliminate the possibility of cross-contamination from meat juices. Future weeks will also include poignant topics, including a video where people with food allergies talk about the dangers of allergic reactions from cross-contaminated or non-labeled ingredients in restaurant dishes.
An allergen kit includes separate utensils to use when working on an order with a specific allergen concern.
The sixth largest contributing factor to foodborne illness is cross contamination (An Introduction into the Food Service Industry, 2004).
While there is no substitute for thorough cleaning and sanitization after every use, color coding your food prep smallwares is a good way to lessen the chance of cross contamination.
Color Coding allows employees to quickly identify which cutting boards, knives, cut resistant gloves and utensils should be used for a specified food. Example: By using only yellow smallwares for chicken and only green for vegetables, you can ensure that raw chicken never comes in contact with vegetables for the dinner salad.
The following guideline is widely accepted as a way to identify and separate the tools needed in preparing certain foods.
Tip: Color coding different departments of operation is another way to help reduce cross contamination. For example, all red colored items will be used in the butcher’s shop, while white colored items will stay in the bakery.
Ready to order? Click here to view our food preparation items, or click on the links above for cutting boards, knives and cut resistant gloves. And don’t forget to check out all of Central’s buying guides.
Is your foodservice establishment following safe food handling practices? Whether you’re a restaurant or school cafeteria, food safety should always be a top priority. Over time (especially during peak meal times), employees may become lackadaisical to food safety. Be sure to remind them how important it is and use these tips to ensure your establishment is safe for your customers.
1. Thoroughly cook food.
Under-cooking food runs the risk of making your customers ill in a variety of ways from food poisoning to E.Coli. Use a thermometer to ensure foods are cooked thoroughly and maintain a safe temperature if left out. Food Safe Schools put together this PDF which gives a reference on control time and temperature.
There are times when it’s okay to be conservative to save money, but when it comes to food safety, it’s never okay to put anyone at risk for the sake of saving a few dollars. Employees must wash hands and change gloves frequently, especially between tasks and upon exiting/entering the kitchen. To put the importance into perspective, review Foodbeast’s “Handwashing Awareness & Helpful Tips” infographic.
4. Stick by the two hour rule.
If food has been sitting out at room temperature for two or more hours, get rid of it.
5. Accommodate guests with food allergies.
Food allergies are serious and create a variety of reactions from discomfort to anaphylactic shock. Note on menus or menu cards if items contain or are around certain foods. Also, post signage and put in menus a request for customers with allergies to inform the wait staff. In return, employees must understand the seriousness of food allergies and convey the information to the kitchen. Some of the top food allergies are peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, fish, shellfish, dairy, eggs, soy, gluten and wheat.
6. Have a Certified Food Protection Manager (CFPM).
iPura covers this in their blog “FDA Retail Food Safety Initiative—Focus on Protection,” which is a FDA initiative that will become more well known as time moves on. Establishments with a CFPM are more compliant with regulations and have less risk factors. Straight from their action plan, the duties of a CFPM are to make their presence a common practice, strengthen active managerial control at retail to ensure better compliance, encourage widespread, uniform and complete adoption of the FDA Food Code and to create an enhanced local regulatory environment for retail food operations.
7. Utilize food rotation labels.
Food labels help employees know which foods are fresh, which foods need to be used quickly and which foods are no longer good for use and need to be discarded. Ecolab has put together an entire page dedicated to food rotation which includes their “First In, First Out” method to ensure food is served fresh and is safe.
8. Be familiar with your food supplier.
Smart Blog on Restaurants covers this in their blog, “Food Safety Checklist for Restaurants.” By knowing your food distributor and using a trusted one, you can work with them to ensure food is safe and of the best quality. SmartBlog also has this reminder, which is similar to what we said earlier about never sacrificing food safety to save some money: “Be wary of suppliers that are guided solely by price; food safety as a cost, but it’s worth the investment.”
9. Wash foods properly.
Photo by Maxstraeten on MorgueFile.com
That being said, kitchens should also know which foods aren’t recommended for washing. There are quite a few specifics when it comes to proper food washing and the USDA has put together this “Safe Food Handling” guide on their website to help with proper food washing methods.
10. Create a plan and stick to it.
Make sure you have safe food handling practices and your employees follow them. It’s a serious matter. Employees must know safe food handling practices are one of the most important aspects to their job and everyone needs to comply.
How does your foodservice establishment handle food safety? What are some methods that have been successful?
Shellfish and fish allergies are two of the most prevalent of the top food allergies. These food items account for over half of all food allergies in the United States. According to AllergicChild.com, “Approximately 12 million Americans suffer from food allergy, with 6.9 million allergic to fish and/or shellfish.” However unlike many other food allergens, overall shellfish and fish are easier to stay away from since with the exception of some food, vitamin and cosmetic items, their inclusion in most recipes is fairly obvious.
Photo from 1.bp.blogspot.com
What’s the difference between shellfish and fish allergies?
Shellfish are overall pretty basic as they are divided into two different groups, mollusks and crustaceans. Crustaceans include items like crabs, lobster, crayfish, shrimp and prawn, while mollusks include sub-categories such as Bivalves (clams, mussels, oysters and scallops), Gastropods (limpets, periwinkles, snails (escargot) and abalone) and Cephalopods (squid, cuttlefish and octopus). The Mayo Clinic advises that “Some people are allergic to only one type of shellfish, but can eat others.” This means it’s important to always ask a physician before eating any shellfish to be positive of which types must be avoided and which might be edible. The Clinic continues by saying, “You’re at increased risk of developing a shellfish allergy if allergies of any type are common in your family.”
Fish allergies in contrast are much more varied compared to many other types of food allergies. Since there are so many different types of fish, it’s hard to know exactly what to avoid. Reactions can be caused by anything from scaly or bony fish to an entire family/species of fish. Because the proteins in most fish are similar it’s a good idea to avoid all fish products to be safe and avoid an allergic reaction.
Photo from talkallergy.com
What should be avoided?
Even though it may seem pretty obvious to avoid items like crab, shrimp, lobster, cod, salmon and other types of shellfish and fish it’s also highly important to know about all of the items that contain these allergens. While you may not realize it there are fish products lurking in many different types of sauces and food toppings. AllergicChild.com lists many of these items and what they contain: Caesar salad dressing (anchovies), Worcestershire sauce (anchovies), Caponata (anchovies), fish sauce (shellfish/fish) and Patum Peperium or Gentelman’s Relish (anchovies). The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network also reminds to be on the lookout for ingredients in Barbecue sauce which often contains Worcestershire sauce. It’s also important to be careful when eating foods like gumbo, paella and many different types of Asian cuisine which can often contain shellfish and/or fish.
Some everyday products even use Menhaden (a type of fish) such as vitamins, soap, cosmetics and insect spray. AllergicChild.com also warns of the use of a new type of bandage being used in Iraq. This item, used since 2003, called a HemCon® Bandage, is actually made from the shells of shrimp. However, so far during the product’s allergy testing no individuals had an allergic reaction, including the 8 patients with known shellfish allergies. But as with any other shellfish/fish product, it’s important to be cautious when using such an item.
Photo from VegeUsa
Shellfish/Fish Alternatives and Eating on the Go
Unlike many other food allergies, there aren’t a huge amount of alternatives to shellfish/fish available. Because of this it’s easier to look for Vegan options. This is because Vegan foods will not contain actual animal products and/or by-products which make them a safe alternative and unlikely to suffer from cross-contamination. VegeUSA suggests that the lack of seafood alternatives is due to the fact that it’s harder to replicate than most other types of meat. However, they worked at the process and came up with Shrimp, Fish Fillets and Tuna Roll alternatives which are all vegan (aka shellfish/fish free).
With the exception of Seafood based restaurants, eating shellfish/fish free is overall a bit more manageable than other food allergies. However, it’s always good to remember a few tips. Avoid ordering French fries or other fried food from a place that also serves fried seafood due to cross-contamination of the frying oil. Eating out at a Japanese restaurant may also be a no-no since it’s very common for multiple items to be cooked on the same surface (ex: going from cooking one customer’s fish to preparing your steak). Eating With Food Allergies gives another great tip for eating out with any type of food allergy. The site instructs that it’s helpful to either eat earlier or later than the normal crowds (i.e. before 6 PM or after 9 PM). This strategy is essential in order to get more attentive service which can be vital in a server realizing that you suffer from an allergy and that your food needs are a necessity and not simply a preference.
While preparing to go out to eat, it’s always comforting to be able to research the available options on sites like Project Allergy in order to find out what the policies are at your favorite restaurants and hotels. However, if you’re out and about there are some great casual restaurants to visit. Macaroni Grill, On the Border, Famous Dave’s, Chili’s and Ruby Tuesday’s all offer online lists that cover each of their foods and what major allergens they may contain. If you’re looking more for fast-food and/or delivery, Domino’s Pizza, Wendy’s and Boston Market all have similar informational sheets. With many of these restaurants there are often mostly non-shellfish/fish options and at several places the only seafood item is Caesar Salad Dressing which is often sealed in packets that do not come in contact with other food items.
Photo from VegeUSA
Delicious Shellfish/Fish Free recipes to try at home
In recent months E. coli has been a hot topic of conversation due to recent outbreaks in Germany, many other parts of Europe and even a few cases here in the U.S. The cause of this potentially deathly affliction? Overall the answer has been something as small and simple as contaminated sprout seeds from Egypt according to the International Business Times. While these latest occurrences have brought the infection back to the top of everyone’s minds, it’s imperative for every restaurant to know the background on it and more importantly how it can most often be prevented.
What is E. coli and who does it affect?
Commonly known as E. coli, the technical name for the bacteria is Escherichia coli. On a day to day basis, a certain strain of the bacteria is already inside your stomach to help you digest food. However, there is another strain of the germ, usually found in raw/undercooked meat, that when ingested can cause the severe illness we usually associate with the bacteria.
While E. coli can affect anyone, it is most aggressive in children and the elderly. This is mostly due to a weaker immune system along with a larger opportunity for these two groups to be in close proximity (schools, day cares and nursing homes) with others who may pass along the germ.
Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly. This makes sure to remove any dirt or fertilizer that the produce has been grown in. The closer the item is grown to the ground (i.e. lettuce, cabbage, sprouts) the more likely it is to have been affected.
Make sure to avoid cross-contamination. Always use separate knives and cutting boards for raw meat and other items when preparing them. It’s also important to use separate plates for raw and cooked meat.
Ensure that all meat is cooked to the appropriate/suggested temperature. In terms of E. coli, this is especially important with red meat. Here’s a great guide to knowing what the right temperature for each meat is.
Do not drink unpasteurized milk and juice.
Last but not least, make sure you always wash your hands and keep all surfaces wiped down. While this may be a no-brainer after a trip to the restroom or after taking out the trash, it’s also extremely important after touching meat or other products that could possibly be a contamination issue.
Is it possible to permanently get rid of the threat of E. coli?
As the answer to many future dining nightmares, this could happen (to some extent) in the future. The Huffington Post reports that by using irradiation on food, eating could be a much safer endeavor. The article continues by saying, “Irradiation zaps food with electron beams, like the kind long used to run TVs, or with gamma rays or X-rays. It’s the same way numerous medical products are sterilized.” However, because many consumers have a fear of this method, this process continues to be the exception with foods requiring labels when the process is used.
What methods do you and/or your restaurant use to prevent the spread of E. coli? How have you handled scares and/or outbreaks in the past? Please leave your comments below.
The tradition of grilling has really been around since man discovered fire. However, over time it has gone from an essential cooking method to a weekend pass time and in current years it’s even evolved into contests and cultured cuisine. Just as the entire idea of cooking outdoors has progressed, so has the tradition within the United States. In a Salon.com article on grilling it is said that George Washington recorded all of the barbecues he attended/hosted mentioning that he may have in fact been responsible for creating the “first presidential barbecue.”
As time went on, grilling out seemed to regress back into the survival mentality with Food Network saying, “Until well into the 1940s, grilling mostly happened at campsites and picnics.” Then in 1951, the world of grilling experienced a huge change, bringing barbecuing and grilling into virtually everyone’s backyard. According to a piece of trivia in the San Matteo Daily Journal, 1951 was the year that the first kettle-shaped barbecue grill was designed by George Stephen, a worker at Weber Brothers Metal Works near Chicago. Not only did this invention make is much easier and cheaper to grill on a more frequent basis, it also made way for grilled food to become a common entrée at even the trendiest of restaurants today (including a chain of its own design, Weber Grill).
So with this rich (and tasty) history in mind, Central now shares with you our guide to summer grilling complete with mouth watering recipes that will get the word out that your restaurant has the best grill in town!
• It’s also helpful to know the general rules on how hot to cook
your food and how long on each side. Go here for a nice guide.
ο After meat is cooked, do not leave it outside any longer than two
hours when the temperature is lower than 90°F or one hour if the
temperature is above 90°F.
• *Tip* – Always pre-heat your grill (both charcoal and gas) to
ensure that the temperature is stabilized so food is not
cooked unevenly. Whole Foods Market’s Grilling Guide
suggests, lighting coals at least 30 minutes before beginning
to cook on a charcoal grill and at least 15 minutes before on a
Do not cook on outdoor grills indoors or under an awning:
ο If you would like to grill indoors, it is safe to use a Charbroiler
instead. Using an outdoor grill inside could cause a fire or
even Carbon Monoxide poisoning (when using charcoal).
Always keep water, a fire extinguisher and a burn kit on hand
in case a fire does break out.
Be aware of cross-contamination:
ο Be prepared with two plates: one for raw meat and one for
ο Keep fresh marinades and sauces on hand to use on cooked
meats instead of using those that have been used with the raw
Charcoal vs. Gas Grilling:
Convenience = Gas wins since it’s as easy as turning the knob to get cooking. Charcoal involves a longer wait, stacking charcoal briquettes or lumps, lighter fluid levels, etc. Charcoal also requires a little more attention to make sure that the coals are staying hot while gas usually stays at a steadier temperature and can be regulated by a knob.
Expense = Charcoal grills are usually less expensive initially, but do require new coals more often whereas a tank of propane can last for a while. However, with gas prices at +$4/gallon, charcoal may be the winner this summer.
Cleanliness = Overall gas is a cleaner burn. It does not produce much in terms of air pollution due to smoke levels and there is less waste from the actual coals and fluid bottles.
Taste = While it is a matter of opinion, there are definitely more options when it comes to a non-gas grill. In a charcoal grill, briquettes could be used or even different forms of wood chips to add a smokier flavor. But the only true difference is that a charcoal grill can reach a higher heat which creates a sort of crusting on the outside of the meat, sealing in flavor more easily. However, according to the Amazing Ribs site, “If you use strong flavored rubs, marinades, and sauces, you will never notice taste differences because they hamper browning.” So all in all it mostly comes down to personal preference.
Once your grilled meal is all prepared, this final thing to always remember when grilling is the importance of a great presentation and marketing! While you’re wonderful smelling/tasting barbecue may be enough to get most people in the door, invest in a barbecue sign to assure customers that yours really is the place to go for the best barbecue in town. Once guests are in the door, vinyl tablecloths lend a fun, picnic type vibe to the meal. As an extra added bonus they are also easy to clean with a damp cloth and are resistant to stains so guests can really dig in without any fear of ruining the table coverings. To add to the outdoor food vibe you can also serve up all of your delicious food in some rectangular plastic food baskets, which are great for everything from barbecue to fries to just about any other side. While you’re at it you might want to look into an iced tea brewer to make your guests some sweet tea to wash it all down with! And although it’s often overlooked, guests full on barbecue will appreciate you placing a toothpick dispenser out once plates have been cleared.
Recipes to try:
Now that you have everything from the past to the dining appearance and all that goes in between down, there’s nothing left but to grab your grill and fire up a few dishes for your anxiously awaiting customers. We’ve gathered a few for you to try that will be sure to have them coming back for more.
Can you imagine an elementary school lunch without a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? How about getting on an airplane without getting a tiny bag of nuts? And as if both of those weren’t enough, what if you couldn’t even eat chili to warm you up on a cold fall evening? These are just a few items on the do not eat, touch, etc. list for people suffering from nut allergies. And while it isn’t necessarily the most common item to be allergic to, nut allergies have begun to occur more and more. Robert Wood, MD, director of the division of pediatric allergy and immunology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore told WebMD, “The number of people with peanut allergies doubled over a recent five-year period, from four in 1,000 people in 1997 to eight in 1,000 in 2002.” This growth may mean more people could potentially suffer from the ill effects of the stray peanut or tree nut, but it also means an increased awareness to the allergy.
What’s the difference between tree nut and peanut allergies?
Often when a person is diagnosed as allergic to peanuts they are also told to avoid tree nuts and vice versa. This is because according to the Food Allergy Initiative, “30-40% of people who have peanut allergy also are allergic to tree nuts.” But what exactly is the difference? The main answer is simply the plant family from which they are produced.
Tree nut allergies are basically nuts grown on trees. The proteins in these nuts are what cause the allergic reaction. The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) says that about 1.8 million Americans are allergic to this family of nuts which are also one of the leading causes of death among those with food allergies.
Peanut allergies are caused by a similar protein to that in tree nuts and basically present the same reactions (anything from breaking out in hives to anaphylaxis). The main difference between the two is that a peanut is a member of the legume family along with items like peas and lentils.
What should be avoided?
Since there are so many different types of nuts, it can be difficult to know exactly what to avoid. While it may sound easy at first to just avoid a peanut or an almond there is a lot more to the process. First, for tree nut allergies it’s important to know what qualifies under U.S. law as that particular item which means it must be labeled as containing tree nuts on packaged food items. The Food Allergy Initiative lists the following as being considered tree nuts under U.S. law: almond; Brazil nut; cashew; chestnut; filbert/hazelnut; macadamia nut; pecan; pine nut (pignolia nut); pistachio; walnut. For peanut allergy sufferers the basic peanut is the main culprit to avoid.
But just because you avoid the tree nut or peanut in its most basic state, doesn’t mean that’s the only item to stay away from. Items like barbecue sauce, chili and even spaghetti sauce sometimes use peanut butter or peanut flour as a thickener. NBC Washington also advises to be careful with pancakes, salad dressing, pasta, pie crust and meatless burgers that may contain traces of different types of nuts. When eating out it’s a good idea to also avoid ice-cream parlors (due to shared scoops) and Asian and African restaurants due to the risk of cross-contamination since many of their foods contain different types of nuts. Kids Health even warns to be especially careful when performing some everyday activities due to the possibility of coming in contact with nuts. They list items such as bird seed, hamster food and bedding, cosmetics and even ant traps as items that could cause a reaction due to nut contamination.
What are some alternatives?
Thankfully for allergy sufferers, items containing these products must be marked on the outside of the package as either containing or possibly coming in contact with nuts. This leads to a pretty wide variety of products that are nut-free. PeanutSafeFood.com has a fairly comprehensive list of several products nut-free and non cross-contaminated items including: Sun Chips, Vanilla Wafers cookies, Skittles, Special K Bars, Betty Crocker Angel Food Cake Mix, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese and Blue Bell Creameries Dutch Chocolate Ice Cream. And if you’re in the market to try some goodies specially made to be peanut-, tree nut-, milk-, and egg-free, check out Divvies. Their facility specializes in making items with minimal cross contamination and as allergen-free as possible. They offer items ranging from gourmet popcorn to cupcakes and even have a cupcake to help you make your own nut free items at home.
Eating Tree Nut and Peanut Free on the Go
Eating nut-free on the go can be a bit more difficult than some allergies due to the ability for small traces to cause big reactions. Just as in our previous dairy-free post, it’s extremely important to be aware of the possibility of cross-contamination. Because reactions can be severe, it’s extremely important that you make servers or your host aware of your allergy ahead of time to prevent any accidents from happening in the kitchen. It’s important to remember that even something as small as not fully sanitizing a knife that has come in contact with a nut can cause a severe reaction. Kids Health advises, “If the manager or owner of a restaurant is uncomfortable about your request for peanut- or nut-free food preparation, don’t eat there.”
In the meantime, if you’re on the go and curious as to where it’s safe to eat, you can rest assured that there are options available. A great site for looking up ingredients and policies at different restaurants prior to visiting is Project Allergy. This site has a plethora of places that are nut-allergy friendly that’s not only includes restaurants, but also lists hotels and airlines as well. Project Allergy restaurant lists include everything from kid-focused places to the family-friendly and just about anything else you might be craving. For the kids, Chuck E. Cheese’s warns against cross-contamination in many birthday and sweets options, but overall could be an option. If you’re looking for family dining Applebee’s can provide around three pages worth of everything from appetizers right down to desserts that are safe to dine on for nut-allergy sufferers. Even theme parks like Holiday World (in Indiana) and Hershey Park (in Pennsylvania) have joined in to help make sure everyone can have a fun getaway without having to worry about a bad allergic reaction.
Delicious Tree Nut and Peanut Free recipes to try at home