When you start to prepare your food for sale to the public you want to do so knowing you are giving you Customers the quality they expect, so you prepare thoroughly for service. It doesn’t really matter whether you are serving burgers or chic bistro food, everything starts with good preparation. The same is true of food safety. As well as preparing great tasting food you should be making sure the food is safe.
As we always say in these articles, there is no one size fits all approach to hygienic and safe food preparation because each workplace is different. There is however a very clear general approach to hygiene and if you take the basic principles and apply them to your own circumstances you will keep both your customers and the Environmental Health Officer happy.
Your team may well be trained and very aware of the need for good preparation, but it never does any harm to take a quick look at your practice. As with all practice it is easier to implement if you know why you are implementing it, so here are 7 little reminders of why some of the hygiene rules for food preparation are important. These type of tips and information are included in the level 1 food hygiene training course, which is the basic, introductory course into food hygiene.
1. Check Deliveries
Check deliveries as soon as possible. You are busy, the kitchen is bustling, and a delivery of fresh produce arrives. The temptation is to give it a cursory glance over, put it to one side and deal with it later. It is much safer to take the time to check and store it immediately or at least very soon after. Apart from not wanting to be stuck with low quality ingredients there are some very good hygiene reasons.
Checking the packaging will potentially show up a physical contamination hazard such as missing staples or splintered wooden packaging. You will be able to spot any items that need additional washing during preparation. Most important of all though are the things you can’t see. The faster you get the produce back into a chilled or properly stored environment the less chance of cross contamination or bacterial growth.
Defrost in a fridge not on a surface. The reason you are better to defrost frozen items in a fridge is very simple. While it may be faster to defrost in a warmer environment, a fridge is controlled. That means the temperature rises at a constant rate and finishes the defrosting process chilled.
3. The Poultry No Go
Never wash poultry. Washing fruit and vegetable is an absolute must (see number 4) but you are about to cook the poultry anyway (see number 5) so washing not only makes no difference to the hygienic preparation, it is actually quite dangerous. Campylobacter is commonly present on the surface of poultry so when you wash it you are actually splashing it around the sink area where it can contaminate other items.
4. Fruit & Vegetables
Wash your fruit and vegetable thoroughly. Nothing is healthier or more natural than some fresh fruit and vegetables. However, natural does not mean clean or free from anything harmful. E-coli, parasites and many other nasties can be lurking amongst the contents of your healthy looking veg box. Green leafy vegetables in particular are a regular culprit for harbouring unwanted guests.
Think about the need to cook to temperature, especially when you are dealing with poultry or minced foods. We already mentioned the danger of campylobacter in chicken and other poultry but cooking thoroughly to the right temperature will destroy it and indeed most other bacterial or viral contamination.
However, if you can serve lamb or beef pink, or in the case of beef, even just seared on the outside, why can’t you serve a pink burger. Well the answer is quite simple. The difference is that pathogens are usually found on the outside of meat. When you mince it, you move the outside to the inside taking the potential hazard and spreading it through the meal. Beef Nigri may look like a strip of raw beef on rice but the point is the outside, where the danger is, has been seared to kill of any pathogens. With an under cooked burger or sausage, the pathogen may have been minced into the product, so if you don’t cook thoroughly, you don’t kill the pathogen.
Here is a list of cooking temperatures if you need them for future use.
Wear the right clothing and only wear it in the preparation areas. Whites and other protective clothing are meant to protect the food from your outside clothes as well as protect you from splashes and spills. Hair nets and beard nets may not be exactly high fashion, but they are there to prevent you from contaminating the food. Gloves, hats and all the other accoutrements of being in the preparation areas should be worn and, to keep the outside world from contaminating the kitchen, worn only in the preparation area.
Wash, wash and wash again. Not to put to fine a point on it you and your skin are a playground for nasty bacteria. Every time you handle your ingredients you are potentially spreading viruses, bacteria and even parasites into the food you are preparing. You know to wash the fruit and vegetables you prepare to make them safe, so do the same for your hands. There are very clear guidelines on when you should be washing. Some, such as after using the toilet, are usually adhered to but others tend to slip. You really shouldn’t let them because they are there to keep food safe. Wash using the happy birthday method every time you need to.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
Prepare for cooking safely and you will almost certainly do so. There is an old handyman phrase that springs to mine ‘measure twice, cut once’ meaning if you do your food preparation right and you think about what you are doing you will get it right first time. The same is true in a kitchen with the difference that not preparing right could result in someone becoming seriously ill.
Our food preparation safety checklist only acts as a very basic guide. You can learn more about food hygiene courses and what is included in each.