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Food Safety in a Food Business: Who is Responsible?

4 Min Read

Improper food safety can lead to foodborne illness outbreaks and other harmful, potentially costly incidents. Learn who is responsible for food safety in your food business.

A food safety incident occurring in a food business can cause irreparable damage to the company, as well as endanger the health of customers and the general public. If a business does not follow proper food safety and hygiene standards, it runs the risk of damaging its reputation, and could be subject to hefty fines, lawsuits and even business closure. These incidents are not only dangerous, but costly.

For example, in a study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, it was determined that a single foodborne illness outbreak at a fast food restaurant could cost as much as $2 million for a single outbreak, depending on how many people become ill, whether there is a loss of revenue, and if legal fees, lawsuits and fines are incurred.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, foodborne illness affects an estimated 48 million people each year in the United States. Of those, over 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases each year.

Improper food handling, poor personal hygiene, and a disregard of food safety practices can all contribute to the spread of foodborne illness.

So, who is responsible for food safety in a food business?

Owners, managers and workers in a food business are all responsible for ensuring the food they produce, sell, or serve to the public is safe for consumption. Let’s examine each role’s responsibilities with food safety.

If you’re an owner or manager

If you’re a food business owner, manager or supervisor, you need to know the food safety laws in your state and city, and ensure that everyone in the organization is following all applicable regulations. It’s also your responsibility to foster a strong culture of food safety, ensuring that safe food handling practices are incorporated into the business’s everyday work routines and operating procedures. Set an example by demonstrating that no one is above or exempt from following food safety rules, including you and other senior staff.

To accomplish all this, supervisors, managers and owners must:

  • Ensure the business stays compliant with food safety laws
  • Create policies and procedures that make it easy for staff to perform food safety tasks
  • Provide food safety training for Food Handlers, and make sure the business is complying with any local Food Handler Certification requirements
  • Establish and evaluate the effectiveness of the company’s Food Safety Plan, updating as necessary
  • Provide a safe working environment, complete with equipment and tools that are in good condition and easy to clean and sanitize
  • Work with staff to identify opportunities for improvement in food safety policies and procedures
  • Encourage staff to speak up and raise food safety concerns
  • Monitor staff behavior and hold them accountable for following food safety rules

If you’re a food handler

Food Handlers are just as critical to the prevention of foodborne illness outbreaks and other food safety incidents. Many of the Food Handlers’ responsibilities overlap with that of supervisory and management staff to foster a strong food safety culture.

Additionally, Food Handlers must be trained in safe food handling practices. Many states require by law that all food handling employees complete a Food Handler Training Course and obtain a Food Handlers Certificate for employment.

This comprehensive food safety training provides Food Handlers the knowledge and tools they need to understand their responsibilities, and ensure the food they sell or serve is safe to eat. This includes:

  • Maintaining good personal hygiene
  • Thoroughly and effectively cleaning and sanitizing surfaces, equipment, dishes and utensils
  • Understanding the causes of food-borne illness
  • Following proper time and temperature control, storage practices, and procedures for thawing, prepping, cooking and serving food
  • Knowing how to handle potentially hazardous foods
  • Preventing food contamination and cross-contamination
  • Knowing how to provide food service to vulnerable persons
  • Protecting customers from allergy-related incidents through proper allergen management

Every food employee has a duty to food safety

From Food Handlers to owners, whether it is your first day, or you’ve been on the job for years, every staff member in a food business has a role to play in ensuring food is safe to consume. And the best way to protect your customers and prevent food safety hazards is by ensuring all staff are trained in food safety. The costs of training and certification are far less than the consequences of a food safety incident.

The investment into these resources help to:

  • Protect customers from foodborne illness outbreaks
  • Protect the business’s brand and reputation
  • Prevent customer complaints and bad reviews
  • Avoid health inspection infractions, fines or the closure of the business
  • Reduce costs due to food waste, pest eradication or meal comps

Userve provides the comprehensive online food handler training that food workers need to practice food safety. Set yourself and your business up for success by providing training to all Food Handlers and fostering a positive food safety culture.

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