According to our blog stats, some of our most popular search terms revolve around food safety and time-temperature abuse, so I thought in light of the current beef recall, it would be the perfect time to do a little pandering to the crowd and offer a short refresher course in time-temperature abuse and preventing food-borne illnesses like e-coli.
What is time-temperature abuse?
According to Daydots, a supplier of food safety equipment and supplies, time-temperature abuse occurs when food has remained in the temperature danger zone (41°F to 135°F) for more than four hours cumulative throughout the flow of food. The danger zone is the temperature range ideal for the rapid growth and reproduction of dangerous bacteria. Time-temperature abuse can also occur if food is not cooked, cooled, reheated or held properly.
What Are the Dangers?
According to the CDC, escherichia coli O157, or e-coli as it is commonly known, is a bacteria that lives in the intestines of animals and people. Most people get e-coli from food, such as undercooked ground beef.
E-coli causes diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps, nausea, and vomiting. Illness may be mild or severe. Young children are more likely to have severe symptoms, including kidney failure, and death.
How can you prevent e-coli contamination?
A CDC fact sheet lists several ways to help prevent transmission of the e-coli bacteria:
WASH YOUR HANDS thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers and before preparing or eating food. WASH YOUR HANDS after contact with animals or their environments (at farms, petting zoos, fairs, even your own backyard)
COOK meats thoroughly. Ground beef and meat that has been needle-tenderized should be cooked to a temperature of at least 160°F/70?C. It’s best to use a thermometer, as color is not a very reliable indicator of “doneness.”
AVOID raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices (like fresh apple cider).
AVOID swallowing water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and backyard “kiddie” pools.
PREVENT cross contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat.
Another tool for measuring the interior temperature of foods is a probe dial thermometer. They are often marked at the correct product insertion depth.
Because non-disposable thermometers must be sanitized after each use, a handy tool provided in some kits is a sanitizing tube which doubles as a protective case for the thermometer.
A more advanced unit is the HACCP compliant waterproof, thermocouple cooking thermometer, which features a probe, digital temperature readout, daily task reminders and HACCP alerts for when food has fallen into temperature danger zones.
The 2009 NAFEM Show, held in Orlando, Florida, this month at the Orange County Convention Center featured several common trends in foodservice products and equipment, including food safety, green/sustainability trends, multi-function appliances, and appliances that increase productivity and decrease prep time.
Tarrison offers an induction range with a concave surface, like a wok. Chefs love induction ranges for their powerful and precise heating capabilities; hotels and caterers are beginning to embrace them for the safety aspect– no open flame. View Tarrison’s flyer here.(PDF)
Chef Revival – The fully-insulated Rotissi-glove couples protection up to 350°F with the dexterity needed for easy handling. Chef Revival also offers a variety of chef and service apparel—much more than just your average cook’s whites.
Robot Coupe, known for its rugged, high volume food prep blenders, unveiled the new and improved CL50 Ultra. It prepares 1,200 servings in three hours or less and has dozens of attachments for versatile processing.
Hatco – Known for warming equipment, Hatco introduced the Glo-Ray Max Watt Foodwarmer, which holds food at the optimal serving temperature, but with more space and higher clearance. Hatco also introduced a sexy new black heated glass shelf—a heated shelf for self-service with a more modern presentation.
Tradeco – Their trendy square china has been around for a while, but is growing in popularity as chains restaurants struggle to be distinct from their competition. Tradeco also offers a variety of colors in their popular Celebration line of dinnerware.
Vulcan unveiled a new Energy Star certified convection oven and hot holding cabinet in one. Operators can now take food straight from the oven and load it into the cabinet for instant hot-holding. This unit offers energy-savings, labor-savings and space-savings—a triple threat!
No more flipping burgers
Vulcan also had on display a gas (or electric) rapid-recovery griddle, now available with an upper plate, allowing the operator to grill on both sides without flipping.
Blakeslee – I got a chance to see how far we’ve come in dish-machine technology—Blakeslee had on display a dish machine from 1912! The all-manual unit actually had a crank that was used to lower and raise dishes from the tank. Their current line of dish machines are much more advanced—reducing both water usage and the energy used to heat dishwater.
Cleveland Range’s new “Mini” Combi Oven Steamer is, obviously, a convection oven and steamer in one, with dozens of capabilities, including cook-and-hold, slow-cooking, and features that allow the operator to program frequently used recipes into the system for one-touch cooking.
Cooper-Atkins offers dozens of different HACCP monitoring systems for food safety, including TempTrak, which provides around-the-clock monitoring and alerts, and user-friendly software for keeping the numbers organized and stored.
San Jamar introduced the Saf-T-Wash Food Sanitizer, designed to thoroughly sanitize product, increasing the shelf-life of produce and reducing costs by eliminating the need for expensive chemicals. The unit attaches to the faucet, using your water line to combine sanitizer with water. It easily switches back and forth from water to sanitizer.
Scotsman’s new Prodigy Nugget® Ice Machine is one of the most energy-efficient ice machines available. It’s Energy Star certified, and comes equipped with an alert system for operation and maintenance, so in addition to using less water and electricity than typical ice machines, it also helps reduce costs associated with service calls.
Recent outbreaks of salmonella in the food supply have brought the restaurant and foodservice industry into the media spotlight. News of illness and recalls associated with spinach, tomatoes and jalapenos has been a serious cause for concern to those who make their livelihood in the foodservice industry. Yet, however widespread it appears to be, according to the National Restaurant Association, the U.S. food supply is the safest in the world.
While recent events have proven it is often difficult to know you’re purchasing food products from safe sources, operators can lessen the risk of receiving contaminated food products by washing hands frequently and thoroughly, not allowing employees to work when ill, segregating fresh produce from other refrigerated foods and washing fresh produce in running water before serving.
The Big Three
In addition to purchasing food from safe sources, other factors that contribute to food-borne illness in foodservice include time-temperature abuse; cross-contamination; and poor personal hygiene. The North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM) refers to these as the “Big Three” of unsafe food handling:
Time-temperature abuse occurs when cooked or raw foods are not held or stored at required temperatures; when food is not cooked or reheated to temperatures that kill microorganisms; and when foods are improperly cooled.
Cross contamination occurs when bacteria is transferred among different surfaces and food items. For example, using a cutting board to cut raw meat, and then using it to slice fresh vegetables is a great way to transfer microorganisms.
Last, your staff can transmit diseases through poor hygiene; for example, improper hand-washing, coughing or sneezing around food, handling food after touching open sores or scratches or coming to work when they are sick.
Foods most likely to cause problems
The FDA identifies several groups of foods that, by their nature, are more likely to become contaminated because of the way they are typically processed and handled during distribution:
Milk and milk products
Red meat and poultry
Fish, shellfish and crustaceans
Untreated raw eggs
Baked or boiled potatoes
Cooked rice and beans
Tofu or other soy-protein foods
Synthetic ingredients such as textured soy protein in meat alternatives
Garlic and oil mixtures
Sprouts and sprout seeds
It is important that these food products are properly handled, stored and prepared. According to NAFEM, most foods outside these categories are more “forgiving” when it comes to handling abuse and the potential for foodborne illness. In the next section, we’ll go over some important HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) guidelines for safely handling these types of foods. The NRAEF (National Restaurant Association Education Foundation) is also a helpful tool for food safety guidance and training. The ServSafe program provides training and certification to foodservice professionals.
The 7 Principles of HACCP
HACCP is a systematic approach to the identification, evaluation and control of food safety hazards based on the following seven principles:
Conduct a hazard analysis
Determine the critical control points (CCPs)
Establish critical limits
Establish monitoring procedures
Establish corrective actions
Establish verification procedures
Establish record-keeping and documentation procedures
For more information about HACCP guidelines and procedures, please visit FDA.gov.
According to NAFEM, equipment manufacturers are driven more than ever before by a demand from the foodservice industry marketplace to design equipment and supplies that address these critical food safety and sanitation concerns. Here a just a few common items that promote sanitation and food safety:
Color-coded cutting boards. As mentioned earlier, using the same cutting board for raw meat and fresh vegetables could result in a foodservice nightmare. Using a set of color-coded boards helps prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen. You should use a different cutting board for fish, cooked foods, fruits and vegetables, poultry, and red meat.
Blast Chillers. Blast chillers are designed to rapidly chill cooked food through the temperature danger zone (135°F to 40°F) to assure food safety. Most models of blast chillers come equipped with probes for critical temperature monitoring and many even have on-board computers and printers for HACCP record-keeping.
No-touch faucet handles. Many faucets come with an option for wrist handles, which don’t require users to touch the faucet after washing their hands. More manufacturers are designing sinks and faucets that promote proper hand washing techniques.
Antimicrobial technology. A wide variety of equipment and supplies now come coated with antimicrobial protection to ward off bacteria. Everything from youth seating, mop handles, carts, slicers, shelving, dish dollies, thermometers, knives, gloves and floor mats are now available with Microban.
No-touch waste containers. Many manufacturers sell “no-touch” models of trash cans and other waste receptacles that don’t required users to make contact with the container. Lids are available in a variety of styles that promote cleanliness.
Sneeze Guards. Because the last thing you want is someone sneezing on your salad.
Safety Ice Scoop System. Another restaurant item that often gets negative media attention is ice, but using an ice scoop holder will remind staff not to leave the ice scoop in the bin, and most models prevent hands from touching the surface of the scoop.