As we enter the hospitality industry’s busiest time of the year, the issue of food safety becomes even more paramount. In recent years, rigorous food safety standards and strict hygiene regulations have been established to ensure that all food prepared and sold in the hospitality and catering sector is safe for consumption. Errors, breaches in food hygiene can devastate any hospitality business. Readers may recall a recent case regarding meat supplier Russell Hume, which began with pub group JD Wetherspoon pulling meets from its menus in January after the Food standards agency (FSA) conducted an investigation into Russell Hume. The then healthy business with a turnover of over £130 million recording healthy profits was subject to an unannounced inspection of its Birmingham site where concerns were raised that hygiene regulations were being breached. The FSA then investigated other sites and locations where its products were stored. At the time the FSA cited on the evidence gathered that there where systematic and widespread issues which was deemed extremely serious, including non-compliance, and procedures and processes surrounding used by dates. Whilst there were no reports that people have fallen ill from the meat supplied the incident led to the company going into administration within weeks.
Another case which hit the headlines in July of last year was an Essex pub which saw the owners fined a staggering £42,000 and was stopped from selling food following food hygiene and safety contraventions which were described by an inspector as “the worst he had seen in 30 years” and resulted in the pubs subsequent closure.
Research data on food poisoning outbreaks has found that five major risk
factors occur repeatedly:
•Improper food-holding temperatures
•Food from unsafe sources
•Poor personal hygiene
Mainstream media report on a regular basis hotels pubs and restaurants who have fallen foul of hygiene inspectors, and there is of course the court of public opinion, review sites and social media where a reputation that has taken years to build up can be trashed in an instant.
Five-star food hygiene ratings should according to authorities be within any operators grasp, yet there are businesses which still fail to achieve what customers considered to be an acceptable standard.
Food hygiene authorities can visit business premises to inspect them to check for compliance with legal requirements. It can include taking samples for scientific analysis and inspecting records. This can result in:
•A formal request to improve any failings
•A legal notice stating what actions must be taken, or what processes, equipment or premises must not be used
•Prosecution for serious failings to comply with the law
Speaking to CLH News food safety specialist Mike Williams director of STS said “Recent news from the USA has once again highlighted that it’s not always the foods you expect to be vehicles for food poisoning bacteria; an E.coli outbreak, which has so far caused 5 deaths and made 197 others ill, has been linked to prepared Romaine lettuce. Whilst at this point the outbreak is not necessarily directly associated with poor temperature control, it serves as a timely reminder that all foods need to be carefully controlled to make sure that they are safe.”
“Controlling the temperature of foods is relatively simple but you need to ensure that you have the right equipment – starting with a probe thermometer and antibacterial probe wipes. The probe needs to work properly; you can test this by simply placing the probe in boiling water (in a pan, not a kettle) and checking that it reads 100oC, then also in some iced water to check that it reads 0oC. If that works, then you are good to go. Always make sure that you clean the probe with an antibacterial probe wipe before use and test foods in their thickest part. If you are checking temperatures of foods in pans, make sure that the probe doesn’t go through the food and touch the pan. Don’t forget to always wipe the probe again with an antibacterial probe wipe after testing food.”
At this time of the year, there’s plenty of guidance about barbeque safety and what to do to ensure that the food you serve is safe. As a minimum, you should ensure that you do the following:
Food temperature control is enormously important at any time of year, not just during the summer months. Whether kitchens are hot or cold, whether food is being cooked outdoors or in the main kitchen, maintaining the correct temperatures is critical to maintaining food safety. Whilst the current US E.coli outbreak has not been directly linked to temperature, poor temperature control of prepared salads can result in bacterial growth – especially if they have been prepared in conditions which can result in cross contamination. For example, if dressed salad items are left out in the sun for long periods of time, any pathogenic bacteria within may multiply to levels which can cause food poisoning. That’s why it’s vital to limit service times if it’s not possible to ensure that food is kept adequately chilled.
One last point is record keeping. While it’s important to check temperatures, it’s equally important to maintain records of these checks. These can help protect you if your business receives an allegation from someone who says they’ve become sick after eating there. Records should be taken daily for fridges and freezers, cooked and reheated food and any foods that are held hot or cold. Make sure that you check the temperatures of food when they arrive on deliveries and record these as well.
Making sure that your food maintains the correct temperature throughout your chain of service is paramount to ensuring that you don’t get the dreaded call saying your guests have become ill. By protecting your food temperature chain, you will also be protecting both your customers’ health and your reputation.
Digital Records-eliminating paper
Checkit’s digital food safety technology is transforming compliance for every size of business. It alerts teams when checks are due, provides automatically created and tamper-proof digital records and makes it easier for businesses to improve standards.
Checkit’s Managing Director David Davies says; “Unlike paper-based checklists that are a hindrance to workers and hide information from management, Checkit ensures the efficient execution of routine activities, providing top to bottom visibility of work as it happens. Checkit is used by a fast growing number of catering, hospitality and food manufacturing businesses including Jamie’s Italian, George’s Tradition, The Ritz, One Aldwych and Compass Group to mention some. The system consists of wireless temperature probes and a handheld digital device incorporating pre-programmed interactive checklists. These checklists can include all the hygiene checks required to comply with the Food Standard Agency’s (FSA) Safer Food Better Business pack or the company’s own food safety management system.
He adds “Crucially, if a task has been overlooked, managers are instantly alerted and can take steps to address the issue before customers, or valuable stock are at risk. In many cases, by just cutting waste, the system pays for itself. And what’s interesting is that the benefits extend beyond the core of food safety.
•Cook foods in the main kitchen and finish them on the barbeque to give that chargrilled flavour
•Make sure that foods are kept in refrigerators or purpose designed cool boxes until needed for service. Keep raw and ready to eat foods separated
•Cook little and often – don’t just cook everything you have and leave it out for guests to eat when they want
•Make sure that you wash your hands and avoid contact with raw meats as much as possible
•Limit service and display times to as short a time as possible
•Check food temperatures regularly, ensuring that all burgers, chickens, kebabs etc. have a core temperature above 75oC
The same disciplines of routinely doing the right things well and monitoring key control points have benefits across many aspects of operational management, and staff not spending time on paperwork spend more time focused on customers.”
As suppliers of specialist temperature measuring equipment supplied into food manufacturing, food service, catering and retail businesses, Comark is well placed to understand the importance of HACCP and food safety training.
“Comark continues to innovate food safety solutions” said marketing manager Alison Butler, “Using Comark’s BT125 Bluetooth Pocketherm, the Bluetooth version of our tried and tested Pocketherm folding thermometer, together with the free Comark Kitchen Checks App; you can build and operate a complete HACCP program without the need for pen or paper”!
Designed for use in the kitchen and other food production areas, the BT125 Pocketherm Thermometer transmits temperature data via Bluetooth to your smart phone or tablet, managing all your HACCP temperature recording in one place.
Load all your required critical control checks on refrigerators, coolers, walk-ins and freezers. You can also monitor receiving at the back door and essential cleaning checks. Using corrective action prompts, any exceptions are dealt with in the same way every time regardless of shift and staff changes. Essentially it is your current HACCP Plan, your way – but now in a free app!
The data is stored in real time and immediately available for reports and audits.