Every Food Manager needs to master these food safety skills.
Food safety is a critical aspect of any food business. As a Food Manager, you are responsible for ensuring the food you serve is safe and of the highest quality. One of the critical elements of maintaining food safety is proper food handling and storage. In this blog, we will explore the best practices in food handling and storage that are essential for Food Managers to uphold, ensuring the safety and satisfaction of customers.
Food handling and storage practices directly impact the quality and safety of the food served in your establishment. Improper handling can lead to bacterial contamination, food spoilage, and even foodborne illnesses. By implementing best practices in food handling and storage, you can reduce the risks and maintain the integrity of the food, protecting the health of your customers and the reputation of your business.
Let’s review the top 7 best practices to ensure food is handled and stored correctly in your workplace.
1. Cleanliness and Hygiene
Maintaining cleanliness and practicing good hygiene is the foundation of proper food handling and storage. Training your staff on the importance of personal hygiene, such as regular hand washing, wearing clean uniforms, and using hairnets or hats, is crucial.
Additionally, ensuring that all food preparation surfaces, utensils, and equipment are clean and sanitized is essential. Regular cleaning schedules and proper sanitation procedures should be established in the Food Safety Plan, and you must supervise that they are followed diligently by all Food Handlers.
2. Temperature Control
Proper temperature control is vital for food safety. The Temperature Danger Zone, between 41°F (5°C) and 135°F (57°C), is where bacteria multiply rapidly. Keeping perishable foods out of this temperature range is crucial to prevent bacterial growth. Some strategies to enforce strict time and temperature controls in your workplace include:
- Training your staff on the importance of using food thermometers
- Regularly monitoring temperatures
- Ensuring that hot foods are kept appropriately hot and cold foods are kept at the right temperature
- Implementing time and temperature logs to track the handling and storage of food items
3. FIFO (First In, First Out)
Implementing a First In, First Out (FIFO) system for food storage is essential to minimize food waste and ensure that older food items are used before newer ones. Train your staff on the importance of adequately labeling all food containers with the date and time they were prepared or received. This practice helps in identifying and using perishable items before they expire. Another good strategy is ensuring newer items are stored behind older ones in refrigerators, freezers and shelves so the older ones get used first.
By following FIFO, you can maintain the quality of your food, reduce the risk of serving expired or spoiled products, and minimize food wastage in your workplace.
4. Proper Packaging and Storage
Choosing suitable packaging materials and storage methods is another crucial aspect of food handling and storage. Some strategies you can implement to make food storage safe and effective are:
- Upon receiving food deliveries, store them in the correct order according to their risk level
- Ensure all food items are appropriately packed to prevent cross-contamination and maintain freshness.
- Use food-grade containers and label their contents and expiry dates
- Wrap perishable items tightly to prevent air and moisture from entering
- Be especially mindful when handling and storing allergens so they don’t cross-contaminate allergen-free ingredients or prepared food
Additionally, educate your staff on the proper storage conditions for different food items, including temperature and humidity requirements. An educated team will pack and store food correctly to help preserve the food's quality and flavor.
5. Separation of Risky and Safe Foods
It’s vital to separate raw and allergenic foods from cooked and allergen-free foods during handling, storage, and preparation to prevent cross-contamination.
Properly separating raw meats, shellfish and other high-risk foods reduces the risk of spreading harmful bacteria and ensures that cooked food remains uncontaminated. The same applies to allergenic foods such as nuts, soy or lupin - they must be handled with great care so they do not contaminate ingredients that could be served to an allergic customer or client.
Train staff so they understand the severity of the risk posed by certain raw foods and allergens, and ensure they follow protocols in the Food Safety Plan:
- Use separate cutting boards, utensils, and storage areas for raw and cooked foods, as well as for allergenic and allergen-free foods.
- Store raw meats in containers or bags to prevent the juice from dripping onto other food items
- Always store raw foods beneath cooked foods in the fridge to prevent cross-contamination from drips
- Keep allergenic ingredients and foods covered at all times and carefully labeled to avoid their accidental use
6. Regular Inspections and Monitoring
Regular inspections and monitoring of food handling and storage practices are essential to identify issues and take timely corrective actions. As a Food Manager, you are responsible for establishing inspection routines and checklists to assess various aspects of food handling, including cleanliness, temperature control, proper labeling, and storage conditions.
Encourage your staff to report any concerns or deviations from best practices promptly, and remember that regular monitoring helps maintain consistency and uphold food safety standards.
7. Ongoing Training and Education
Food handling and storage practices evolve with time, and staying updated on the latest best practices and industry standards is crucial. Provide ongoing training and education to your staff to ensure they have the knowledge and skills to handle and store food safely. Encourage them to attend food safety seminars, workshops, and certification programs, and set an example by keeping your training and certifications current.
An investment in continuous learning helps foster a culture of food safety within your establishment and ensures that your staff remains proactive in maintaining high standards.
Embrace Safe Food Practices
Proper food handling and storage are indispensable skills for Food Managers. By implementing best practices and fostering a culture of food safety within your establishment you can protect the health of your customers, maintain the quality of your food, and demonstrate your commitment to excellence.
Remember that cleanliness, temperature control, FIFO, proper packaging and storage, separation of risky and safe foods, regular inspections, and ongoing training are all crucial elements of successful food handling and storage practices. Embrace these practices and make them an integral part of your food business so you can continue consistently delivering safe and delicious food to your customers.