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Keep Food Poisoning Off Your Menu With These 7 Strategies 

Ensuring a safe and hygienic environment should be a priority for every restaurant owner. Foodborne diseases could be detrimental to your business, causing costly damages and ruining your eatery’s reputation.

Fortunately, there are numerous measures you can take to ensure your restaurant delivers on cleanliness and food safety. From regular cleaning schedules to training staff and avoiding cross-contamination, these seven strategies will keep everyone healthy while dining at your restaurant.

Implement Hygiene Policies

According to the CDC, 20.8% of foodborne illnesses result from unwell employees — the leading factor for spreading germs. As such, you should consider implementing sick leave policies and encourage workers to stay home when under the weather. Although being short-staffed is an inconvenience, spreading foodborne illnesses is far worse.

Likewise, you must train team members to maintain proper hygiene at all times. Hang signs in the bathrooms and kitchen to remind them of proper handwashing techniques.

Sanitize Regularly

Every restaurant owner understands the importance of maintaining a clean establishment. However, it’s not just for creating the perfect aesthetic to enhance the dining experience — it’s for preventing food poisoning and other germs.

Water and a clean dish rag aren’t enough to eliminate harmful bacteria, viruses and grime. Employees must use chemical solutions on all cooking surfaces — including sinks — to kill pathogens before they contaminate food.

You should leave the cleaning solution on for 1 to 2 minutes before wiping it away, giving it enough time to do the job. You should also apply cleaning agents overnight and wash them down the following day. Floors and bathrooms are other areas to clean thoroughly, as workers and patrons often pick up germs and illnesses in these spaces the most.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Cross-contamination is among the easiest ways to spread harmful bacteria and germs. Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid customers getting sick, including:

  • Sealing raw meats to stop juices from dripping onto other foods and surfaces.
  • Refrigerating or freezing cold ingredients as soon as possible in their proper containers.
  • Washing your hands and surfaces, cooktops, cutting boards, and utensils after each use.
  • Wiping up spills immediately with hot water, soap and clean towels.
  • Using different cutting boards for meat and produce, and relying on rubber ones because they don’t hold bacteria, odors or liquids.
  • Marinating foods in the refrigerator with proper sealing.
  • Washing fresh produce thoroughly to remove dirt, pesticides and other contaminants.

Most importantly, always use a clean plate and never place cooked food on any surface you prepared raw meat on.

Store Food Properly

Proper food storage is essential for avoiding foodborne illnesses and for your bottom line. When ingredients spoil, it always leads to lost revenue. Restaurant managers should consider these key food storage practices:

  • Maintain the correct refrigeration and freezer temperatures to prevent bacteria.
  • Ensure all containers have lids or other secure wrappings to avoid pathogen exposure.
  • Keep raw and cooked foods separate to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Follow best practices for thawing frozen food safely. 

Refrigerated food remains freshest at 37˚ Fahrenheit, while you should keep the freezer set to zero degrees.

Being mindful of the “danger zone” of 40˚–140˚ F is just as crucial for storage and prep. Any temperature within the danger zone is conducive to bacteria growth, which can double in 20 minutes.

Label Foods Correctly

Organization is critical when preventing food poisoning in your restaurant kitchen. Labeling packages with the correct food item and expiration date allows you to rotate stock more efficiently, note allergens more accurately and prevent spoilage.

Most restaurants follow the first-in, first-out inventory management strategy. The technique prioritizes using the oldest perishable food first for maximum freshness and less waste. For example, when food deliveries arrive, the newest items are placed in the back of the rotation.

Ensure Food Meets Safe Internal Temperatures

Eating undercooked foods like beef and shellfish could lead to E. coli infections. Therefore, cooking foods to the recommended internal temperatures is critical for optimal food safety. Chefs should use a meat thermometer to determine the following safe temperatures:

  • Steak, roasts and chops: 145˚ F and three minutes resting time
  • Ham and other pork: 145˚ F and three minutes resting time
  • Chicken, turkey and other poultry: 165˚ F
  • Venison: 160˚ F
  • Fish: 145˚ F or until translucent

Some proteins require a resting period after cooking. Allowing them to sit before serving ensures they’re done throughout.

Audit Food Safety Best Practices

Even if your protocols are tried and true to ensure food safety, establishments can still benefit from occasionally improving best practices. Review your current rules for storing, handling and cooking ingredients, including training and enforcing good hygiene.

Restaurant managers can approach audits in two ways — conduct a review themselves or bring in third-party food safety specialists. Independent experts provide a more comprehensive assessment and deliver valuable recommendations for improvements.

Prevent Food Poisoning at Your Restaurant

It doesn’t take much for foodborne disease to spread rapidly throughout your restaurant, just as it doesn’t take much to prevent it in the first place. Strategies to avoid food poisoning are straightforward and a cornerstone of operating an eatery. Take the necessary precautions and implement best practices to protect your customers and staff from foodborne illnesses.

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