Tag Archive for 'Hygiene'

Cantaloupes (Rockmelons) KILL 29 people in the US!

“With 29 people now confirmed dead, the listeria outbreak linked to cantaloupe from one Colorado farm is officially the deadliest foodborne illness outbreak in the United States since 1924, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention”

The above quote is what greeted readers of “USA Today” on the 3rd November 2011. The full article can be accessed through the links above, but I bet that most chefs would never have considered a melon to be a high-risk food, let alone be capable of killing people.

When you read the article (and other associated commentary) the cause of this outbreak has been linked to poor hygiene in the packing shed on the farm.

I have already written a couple of blog posts e on the importance of cleaning and in particular sanitisers, so my views on hygiene are well known. This is just an unfortunate case where a food business in the US has graphically highlighted the consequences of an un clean work place.

I believe that there are only three basics components in ensuring cleaning is conducted properly. They are:

  1. Knowing what, when and how to clean
  2. Having a chemical supplier that provides appropriate chemicals
  3. Having employees that are adequately trained

The first point is easily achieved if you spend a little bit of time in preparing a cleaning schedule. This involves you walking around your kitchen and identifying:

  • What needs to be cleaned (i.e. floors, benches, ovens, utensils etc.)
  • How frequently it needs to be cleaned (before use, after use, weekly, monthly etc.)
  • How you are going to clean (i.e. what steps are involved)
  • The equipment and chemicals needed to adequately clean
  • Who is responsible for the cleaning and checking the cleaning

 

The second point is harder. Many people solely choose a chemical supplier based on price with little consideration for effectiveness, suitability or ease of use. The best chemical companies provide automatic dispensing systems, labelled bottles, clear instructions, MSDS and colour coded systems. Some even:

  • Service your dishwasher
  • Provide audits/ reports on chemical usage
  • Staff training
  • Conduct micro testing to ensure effectiveness of chemicals.

 

All of this is generally built into the cost of the chemical and cannot be compared when purely judging the price of two different 5 Litre containers. Speak to your supplier and see what services they provide or you are missing out on.

 

The third point (as indicated above) may be provided by the chemical supplier. If it is not provided by the supplier, then this training needs to be conducted internally by a suitably qualified and experienced employee. Some of our clients have developed induction manuals for all kitchen hands and stewards that include:

  • Cleaning schedules
  • Summary of chemical uses
  • Monitoring forms
  • Safety information

 

To assist you, we have provided a template that The Gourmet Guardian use in the Food Safety Programs that they develop for clients and you can use to develop your own cleaning schedule.

 

We have included a couple of items, so that you can see how we would complete this for a client, however instead of “detergent” and “no rinse sanitiser” I suggest you use your actual chemical names.

As summer approaches, the importance of cleaning becomes even more important.

P.s Don’t forget to download the free template for a cleaning schedules.

 

Other references to this outbreak can be found at:

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Jewellery in the Kitchen

Most people have pieces of jewellery that they were regularly and some, like wedding rings, that they never take off. In the kitchen, however, taking off jewellery is extremely important for yourself and others in ways you may have never even thought of!

In professional kitchens, it’s a requirement that staff aren’t allowed to wear jewellery such as watches, earrings and necklaces when preparing food. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule that include wedding bands and medical alert bracelets BUT gloves must be worn at all times for protection. If there is a religious bracelet that an employee can’t remove, it will have to be managed by taping and remaining covered with protective work gear.

One of the main reasons watches and jewellery may not be worn around food are the dirt and bacteria it collects and spreads. Even if the jewellery has been cleaned and sanitised, it may catch other microorganisms that are lying around or from raw foods like uncooked chicken.

The other main reason jewellery is banned from food service kitchens is the potential hazard of a piece of metal or gemstone that could possibly fall off and into the food that’s being prepared. The last thing any reputable food company wants is customers with chipped teeth, broken teeth or internal cuts and lesions inside of their mouths!

Contrary to what people might believe, jewellery is very hard to completely clean out all of the germs and microorganisms that hide in the chain links or under those precious stones. Just because it looks sparkly doesn’t mean it’s sanitary.

Jewellery is worn for many different reasons; whether it means something sentimental or it defines how a person looks. The main thing to always remember, though, is to save beauty for outside of the kitchen because inside, food safety matters a heck of a lot more!

 

 

 

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A Clean Chef’s Uniform = A Clean Professional Kitchen

Every job has a dress code; whether it’s for business attire at the office, a logo filled collared shirt for the cable man/woman or hair netting and gloves for kitchen employees. A uniform represents a personal standing within the company as well as oftentimes, useful for other purposes such as safety and hygiene assurance.

In any food working environment, great, personal hygiene and safety of the employee and consumers goes a long way in food safety. One way to encourage as much cleanliness in the professional kitchen as possible is to require uniform practices that help prevent bacteria from spreading in the food preparation area.

It goes without saying that all kitchen staff are required to come to work clean and wear clean, uniformed clothes and coverings when working with food. If you’ve ever noticed chefs and cooks in the kitchen when dining out, their uniform consists solely of all white. It seems a little silly to those not in the food business that white, the easiest stained colour of all, is used in one of the messiest professions out there. The reason behind it is very interesting though: Safety.

Not only can white be bleached (pure sanitation) every time it’s washed but white is also the most reflective colour which helps keep heat at bay for cooks to stay cooler. Also, these white coats don’t have your typical plastic buttons on them; rather, they contain knotted buttons that don’t melt and are easy to unbutton should a flame or oil accident occur.

You might think, in such a hot kitchen, why do food service employees wear long-sleeved coats? Again, the answer is: Safety. Long sleeves help protect employees from getting burns from boiling liquids or accidental oil spills while also protecting happy customers from flakes of dead skin, drops of sweat or body hair from ending up in their food.

Ideally, work clothes should be long-sleeved and light-coloured (to show the dirt) with no external pockets.  Long sleeves protect both the food and your arms, prevents skin from touching food and helps to stop hairs, fibres and the contents of pockets (which can carry bacteria) getting into food.

When working with raw poultry or other salmonella carrying food, aprons are then typically used over the white chef uniform so that it can be removed without requiring a time-consuming, full change of clothing. Also, to follow any health regulation required in any country, long hair is required to stay tied back while also wearing disposable hair (and beard) nets and rubber gloves.

A good idea to help keep up the sanitation of a professional kitchen is to enforce employees to only put on their kitchen uniforms once they’ve arrives to the food prep area and removed once their shift is over to avoid tracking in dirt and bacteria from the outside. Since reputable food companies need to keep their customers healthy and food-poisoning free, these uniforms, hair nets and gloves are an absolute must!

 

 

 

 

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“I’ve got gloves on, so am I ‘Food Safe’?”

While hand washing is very effective at preventing the spread of infection by wiping out bacteria as well as cross-contamination of foods, it is less than adequate for getting rid of many viruses such as hepatitis A and protozoa.  One out of every five cases of food-borne illnesses is caused by an infected worker’s hands coming into contact with food, so;

Clean gloves are a better choice than unclean hands.

However, it has not been proven that the use of disposable vinyl, latex or non-latex gloves is a safer method of handling food compared to effective hand washing techniques.  Wearing gloves can lead to a false sense of security and safety and can more than likely cause food contamination if hands are not washed and air dried prior to putting them on; so this can result in cross contamination from raw to high risk food in the same way as it does with hands.

Defects in a significant number of gloves, such as pinholes or punctures, enable bacteria from the hands to pass through the gloves and may result in contamination of high-risk foods with large numbers of pathogens.  Latex gloves can also produce allergic reactions in some people.

The hand environment created by wearing gloves provides the ideal conditions for the growth of bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus.

Cleaning hands before putting on gloves and frequent disposal of gloves minimises the risk for food contamination.

It is good practice to wash hands thoroughly after gloves have been removed as pathogens may have multiplied significantly while the gloves were being worn.  Some workers tend to wear the same pair of gloves for extended periods and it is that complacency that could account for the failure of gloves to prevent bacterial contamination.

Therefore the use of gloves could be counterproductive because workers might tend to wash their hands less frequently.

Food handlers with gloves are more aware they are handling high-risk foods and therefore are less likely to scratch their head and pick their nose or all those other bad hygiene practices that can lead to the spread of bacteria.

It therefore appears that a multi-tiered approach will offer the best protection.

Food service workers need to be educated about hand washing, using proper gloves and preventing ill employees from preparing food. They also need to be provided proper training in proper hygiene with a system put in place for monitoring compliance.

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