Is your team prepped for food prep? by Barry Parsons



The first task that must be accomplished before starting food preparation is that your staff must be prepared to handle food safely, which is not always common sense. This requires adequate training and a written Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). The area in which the staff will be working as well as the equipment must be checked to ensure that they are appropriately cleaned and sanitized. If not, everything will need to be cleaned and sanitized before prep can even begin. Once the cleaning and sanitizing step is complete, the fun begins.

One of the first and most basic food safety practices is to ensure that raw and ready-to-eat (RTE) products are always separated to prevent cross-contamination. Separate cutting boards and knives are key.

Time/Temperature Control

Never pull out too much food from the refrigerator that needs Time/Temperature Control for Safety (TCS) at one time. You must prevent or minimize temperature abuse. The four-hour rule in the food code exists as an absolute cumulative maximum length of time food can be in the temperature danger zone. One simple practice is to have written into your recipe’s food safety controls and time management. This practice will help new and current staff and reinforce your commitment to food safety. Once the food is prepared, immediately place the food back into refrigeration or begin the cooking process.

Follow your regulatory minimum cooking temperatures and use a clean, sanitized, and calibrated thermometer to verify the final cook temperature was achieved.

Documentation

You should also periodically document final cook temperatures. Some operations may have validated SOP that reduce the need for charting temperatures, but this does not eliminate the need for documentation. The documentation is needed to verify the facility is following regulatory requirements especially for evidence if a complaint is lodged. In the Section 2-102.11 of the food code, the Person-in-Charge must be able to demonstrate the “application of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point principles”. Understanding the principles of HACCP will assist the facility in determining what documentation should be retained. The code does not tell you what documentation is needed because of the vast differences between operations.

Sanitizing vs. Cleaning

As you know, throughout the preparation process sanitation practices will need to be performed and managed. When an allergen is involved, remember a sanitizer does not remove protein residue (allergens) on food contact surfaces. You must clean with hot, soapy water. Sanitizer is for the reduction of a pathogen, not allergens. Too often, sanitizer is used to “clean”, but you cannot truly sanitize something that has not been cleaned first. The food juices, food particles, grease/oils, and protein inactivate the sanitizer. Also, watch the bar towel usage. They are not to be over the shoulder, over your apron string, in your pocket, or used as a hot mitt (Food Code 3-304.14). If you use sanitizer buckets, test the solution often so you are sanitizing the first and last item at the proper strength.

Make sure your team is prepped for food prep before the process begins!


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