Tag Archives: hand washing

Celebrate National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month at Your School!

June marks National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month, and what better way to celebrate than incorporating delicious produce into your school’s meals? Central offers a plethora of products that make it easy for schools to handle fresh fruits and veggies for students from washing and prepping to serving and storage.

Handling Fresh Produce in Schools

The National Food Service Management Institute details their best practices for handing fresh fruits and vegetables in schools, but they are the best practices that any foodservice operation facility could use to follow proper protocol for produce.

Washing and Preparation

Inspect the produce for signs of soil or damage before prepping for further use. If you see affected areas, cut them off or just simply do not use them and avoid the risk! A sharp knife will actually increase employee and safety, and get the job done right! Vegetable brushes are also a great investment to help scrub off dirt and spots on produce.

Don’t forget to actually wash the produce under continuous running water or use a chemical disinfectant. Never soak produce or store it in standing water.

If you receive packaged produce that says it’s ready to eat, washed or pre washed, do not rewash the produce.

There are a variety of food prep appliances that can get the job done while cutting the time it takes in half. Options range from slicing, dicing, chopping or sectioning. If you want apples sectioned out in seconds, or lettuce conveniently chopped for the salad bar, these appliances will make food prep a breeze!

Fruit and Vegetable Month

Photo credit: USDAgov / Foter / CC BY

Finally, it’s important to wash all the equipment, utensils and food contact surfaces that came into contact with your washed produce. Keep these things clean and sanitized for the next use. NFSMI recommends rinsing, sanitizing and air-drying each item before use.

Hand Hygiene

Proper hand washing techniques must be implied to ensure clean, fresh produce that’s safe to eat for everyone! Some might think this is a no brainer, but, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling or prepping fruits and vegetables. Remember to rewash your hands after using the restroom, sneezing, coughing or handing anything that’s not produce.

Use gloves or a utensil when touching ready to eat produce – but remember, you must still wash your hands properly. If you use disposable gloves, change them anytime they could have become contaminated in between tasks. Never wash or reuse disposable gloves, and change them if they are torn or damaged.


One of the easiest ways to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into your school is to serve them on a cold food bar, or display them in an attractive way. This is a popular choice, but it’s important to make sure it’s a safe one, too!

Creating a pretty display is definitely worth the effort, but do not store produce in direct contact with ice or water while on a salad bar or serving line. Place fruits and veggies in a beautiful display bowl or platter and then on ice! Leave out cut produce for a maximum time of four hours, after that it needs to back into refrigeration or in containers surrounded by ice.

NSFMI details how to create a safe salad bar and self-service lines by following these tips:

  • Protect food with sneeze guards or food shields in a direct line between the food and the mouth or nose, usually 14 to 18 inches above the food.
  • Use cleaned and sanitized long-handled tongs, spoons and ladles so bare hands do not touch food and the utensils do not drop into serving pans.
  • Change utensils periodically.
  • Set up the salad bar or self-service line as close to mealtime as possible to reduce the time that produce sets out.
  • Keep cold foods at or below 41°F in a refrigeration unit or surrounded by ice
  • Monitor and document the internal temperature of self-service items every 30 minutes as with other foods on the service lines.

    Fruit and Vegetable Month

    Photo credit: USDAgov / Foter / CC BY-NDs with other foods on the service lines.

  • Clean up spills promptly. Wiping cloths should be stored in sanitizing solution and laundered daily.
  • Teach children salad bar etiquette. Assign an adult to monitor the salad bar and self-service line to make sure the customers – especially children – are not touching food with their hands, tasting food while in line, putting their heads under the sneeze guards or returning food items.
  • Clearly label all salad dressings and other containers to discourage tasting.
  • Never add freshly prepared food to food already on salad bars and self-service lines.


Always keep fresh fruit and vegetables at the right recommended temperature, whether it be refrigeration or in a dry atmosphere. Store produce in a covered container, at least six inches off the floor and above items that might cause contamination. Mark dates on when you receive the product, when it’s been cut and when to throw it out by.

Proper storage bins, cold food pans, plastic wrap and date labels will be essential for proper storage in your kitchen. Be sure you stock up!

We’ve Got What You Need

Central has everything you need to celebrate national fresh fruit and vegetable month all year long! From food prep equipment all the way to storage containers, you can find it with us. If you’re a little confused as to how to properly prep your produce or set up a suitable buffet or food bar, give one of our helpful Product Consultants a call at 800-215-9293 or chat with them live!

Featured image photo credit: USDAgov

10 Tips for Food Safety

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.

2. Avoid cross contamination.

From our Cross Contamination Prevention Guide, did you know cross contamination is the sixth largest contributing factor to food borne illness?  Avoid cross contamination and make it easier for restaurant workers by using a color coded system. There is a commonly used color scheme used for cutting boards, knives and gloves. Read more in our Cross Contamination Prevention Guide.


3. Wash hands and change gloves frequently.

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?

10 Back to School Products and Ideas for School Cafeterias

The beginning of the school year is the best time to go over standards and policies.  It’s also the time to make sure all the right tools are available to make every day a successful one.

Here are 10 products and ideas from Central to help get your cafeteria started right for the upcoming school year.

1. Food safety is critical.  All cafeteria employees should go over proper food and hand washing techniques at the beginning of the year, followed by periodic refresher meetings and posted signage.  Also, when wearing gloves, upon stepping away from a workstation, or moving on to another task (even if just for a second), dispose of the gloves immediately and put on a new pair when returning.

2. There are trays designed for a quick turnaround.  Melamine compartment trays dry the quickest and are an excellent choice for schools with a quick turnaround. Click on any of the following for more information: #17K-046, #17K-047, #17K-051 and #17K-052.

3. Planning menus in advance, and making them easy to access, helps everyone.  Can students and parents easily access your menus?  If they are only sent home with students, don’t forget about the ones who lose things easily or forget to take things home. Consider posting menus online and also having menu boards in the cafeteria. This way, everyone stays informed.

4. Cold food/salad bars are a great way to make fruits and vegetables available for children and promote healthy eating habits.  These types of food bars are really making their way into schools.  Even one of Michelle Obama’s initiatives of “Let’s Move!” includes the campaign for “Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools.”  The Carlisle Six-Star food bar or Cambro Versa Bars are great choices that come in a youth height for easy access.

5. Create a rewards program to help teach students healthy eating habits.  Make sure the program doesn’t reward with more food—especially junk food.  Work with other members of the school to create incentives to eat healthier such as free time or fun activities.

6. Learning doesn’t have to stop during lunch time.  On top of promoting healthy eating habits, use meal times to inform students of your school’s green initiatives and get them involved. This can set them up to be environmentally conscious in their every day life.

7. Food allergies are very serious.  All workers should be prepared in the event of an emergency, even if you don’t have any students to your knowledge with allergies.  A student’s life can depend on it. In last week’s resources blog, we found excellent information about food allergies from the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, including this Food Action Plan.

8. When shopping, there are warranties exclusive to schools.  Keep your eye out for these. Some brands that have these special warranties are Garland, Vulcan, APW Wyott, Cres Cor, Duke and Univex. (At Central, we mention ours in our school catalogs. Feel free to contact a Product Consultant for help).

9. Keep cereal fresh.  For breakfast programs, cereal dispensers keep food fresh, save space and control portion sizes.

10. Dispose of the disposables. For flatware, both the Windsor and Dominion medium weights are great options for schools as well as our Central Exclusive Tumblers. Also, while you may not always think of ice as a disposable, have you ever considered reusable ice? It saves money and you will never have to deal with the mess regular ice can bring. Check out mat #647-001 or singles #647-002.  And if you’re in the market for a new dishwasher, the Jackson CREW44 conveyor dishwasher is one of the top picks for schools.

Don’t forget to check out last week’s resources blog to keep informed going into the school year. Also, check out our February blog “Top 10 Ways Central Can Help Your Cafeteria Go Green” if you’re looking to make your school cafeteria more eco-friendly.  Don’t forget to share your favorite products and ideas below.

Thanks to Central’s Category Managers Laura Bedillion and Elizabeth Price for providing great product suggestions.

Spring Cleaning is Here – Time to Reorganize and Clean Up!

April is a month full of sunny days, rain to bring May flowers, taxes and SPRING CLEANING! We are here to help. Over the next couple of weeks we will be posting blogs full of information about organization, renovations, updates and more!

Today’s topic: SPRING CLEANING! This is the time of year people begin to sweep the dust bunnies out from under the furniture and reorganize their lives from the hectic winter. But how do you reorganize or clean without the proper equipment? Don’t worry, we are here to help.

We have many helpful products for reorganizing and cleaning.

If you are reorganizing a walk-in look into our heavy duty post shelving.

We carry shelving unit packages for use in dry and humid areas and for use in many different walk-in brands such as Kolpak and Nor-Lake.

If you are looking for products to make cleaning easier consider our color coded microfiber cleaning cloths. Assigning one cloth to each room will decrease confusion and increase cleanliness. These can be used with or without cleaning products.

Are you looking for something to help keep your area clean? Consider a disposable floor mat for your restrooms. These help protect the floor from stains. These mats have a green apple fragrance and are infused with a neutralizing agent to combat odors.

Do you work with onions or other strong scented foods? Invest in an odor removal bar. This bar is made of stainless steel and removes harsh odors including garlic, onion and fish.

Spring cleaning doesn’t always have to be stressful. Let us help!

Holiday catering food safety tips

Congratulations to Nancy R. of Ash, NC – winner of a really cool reversible black and white wet-erase marker board.

Today’s winner is going to get something really UNcool- a Fusion triple well warmer. ( a little food warmer humor, haha.)

Central Restaurant Products

This warmer is ideal for buffet lines, concession stands and other venues where foods need to stay warm – it keeps hot foods hot, appetizing and ready to serve.

It comes with three third-size food pans, three covers and a pan frame. The warming tray can be used alone, or with the pan frame to securely hold food pans. Adjustable temperature control: Off, Low (150°F), Medium (175°F) or High (200°F). There are cool-touch handles on the warming tray and skid-resistant feet for safety.

We published a holiday catering guide a few weeks ago with some helpful info on making the most of holiday catering season. It include some broad tips and tricks for catering events and parties, but I thought I’d go into greater detail today on some of the food safety guidelines surrounding buffets and catering.

This information comes from FoodSafety.gov – pretty much the leading authorities on food safety! (Plus, a lot of our product consultants are CFSP, so they’re also a great resource for food safety issues.)

  • Cook foods thoroughly before the party: Pull out your food thermometer and use the mimimum cooking temperatures chart.
  • Keep hot foods hot: Use chafing dishes, crock pots, and warming trays to keep hot food hot. Use a food thermometer to make sure that the internal temperature of the food is 140° F or higher.
  • Keep cold foods cold: Store cold foods in the refrigerator until serving time. On the buffet table, place plates or bowls of cold food on ice.
  • Follow the Two-Hour Rule: If the food’s been out at room temperature for more than two hours, throw it out! After two hours, bacteria can easily multiply and cause foodborne illness.
  • Wash those hands: Always wash your hands thoroughly before and after you handle food.

Also check out this USDA podcast on keeping food safe on the buffet table; and this USDA video about not letting foodborne illness ruin your holiday!

Come back tomorrow to find out who won the Fusion warmer, it could still be you! Go to CentralRestaurant.com and enter to win.

Beef recall: a refresher course in time-temperature abuse

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:

  1. 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)
  2. 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.”
  3. AVOID raw milk, unpasteurized dairy products, and unpasteurized juices (like fresh apple cider).
  4. AVOID swallowing water when swimming or playing in lakes, ponds, streams, swimming pools, and backyard “kiddie” pools.
  5. PREVENT cross contamination in food preparation areas by thoroughly washing hands, counters, cutting boards, and utensils after they touch raw meat.

Following are the proper cooking temperatures each type of meat requires to reach the safe zone:

Seafood: 145°F for 15 seconds
Steak: 145°F for 15 seconds
Pork: 145°F for 15 seconds
Beef or Pork Roast: 145°F for 4 minutes
Ground Meat: 155°F for 15 seconds
Poultry: 165°F for 15 seconds

There are also a number of tools foodservice professionals can use in the kitchen to ensure that food is properly cooked, cooled and stored properly.

  • Single-use,disposable 160°F meat thermomters are ideal for taking temperatures of hamburgers or other ground beef.
  • 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.

In addition to these tools, color-coded cutting boards, plastic gloves and hand-washing systems can also help prevent the spread of bacteria in the kitchen. For more information on the HACCP system of food safety visit FDA.gov, and for more food safety products visit CentralRestaurant.com