Summer is here, which means the start of fresh produce season. It also is the best time to refresh your restaurant staff’s knowledge of proper food handling practices. An important part of food safety culture is ensuring each employee understands and follows proper procedures. This is especially vital for handling raw produce, which can cause contamination that leads to food borne illness.
The first step in safe handling of fresh produce is to educate your staff about the following processes:
You should order fresh produce frequently and establish guidelines for receiving, such as visual inspection of the delivery truck and produce containers. Are they clean? Any sign of package damage or pests? Be sure to reject any product past its expiration date or shows signs of spoilage, mold, or insect infestation.
Having a proper back office inventory tracking system is the best way to make sure that you always have the right quantities and freshest produce in stock at all times. It can help determine when to reorder as well as when to pull out of date items.
Produce storage is a very important part of proper food handling. For example, whole raw produce and cut vegetables should be packed in self-draining containers of ice, which should be changed regularly. It is not recommended to wash any produce before storing. Keep produce in a cool, dry environment to prevent mold growth. Check national, state, and local regulations and standards for safe food handling temperatures. *
It is imperative that your staff always avoids cross-contamination. All produce needs to be stored away from raw meat products such as beef, poultry and seafood. Any juices that spill onto your produce can lead to dangerous bacterial growth, which makes it unsafe for consumption.
When it’s time to prep your produce in the kitchen, proper food handling practices still play a role in safety. All fruits and vegetables need to be washed thoroughly in water that is slightly warmer than the produce temperature.
Do not allow the produce items to come into contact with surfaces that have been exposed to raw meat products. Be sure to clean and sanitize the cutting surface before and after prepping your produce. It is also important to clean cutting utensils, cutting boards and slicer equipment after each use.
Conduct Food Inspections
Never assume that produce delivered to your restaurant is safe. Always inspect the food and empower your employees to turn down any questionable deliveries. Be vigilant in observing you staff’s practices of proper food handling. Take corrective actions and educate staff members who may not be following food safety protocols.
Your restaurant’s reputation is vital to future success. As an owner or manager, it is up to you to set the standard for an effective food safety culture. Have peace of mind knowing that your staff is on board and that your guests remain happy and healthy with every meal.
* It is critical that you check national, state and local regulations and standards to determine safe food handling procedures in your area. The above recommendations should be viewed as basic guidelines, not law.