People love to treat themselves to a dinner at their favorite restaurant or to take the time to catch up with an old friend over lunch at a café. While everyone has different tastes in food, they can all agree that food poisoning is the worst consequence of having a meal out. In the United States, approximately 48 million individuals get some form of food poisoning each year and 2-3% of these cases lead to hospitalization.
A foodborne illness is a sickness that is caused by germs in food. It becomes an outbreak when two people or more have the same symptoms after eating in the same place. In food establishments, 89% of foodborne illnesses are caused by contamination from workers. The National Restaurant Association recommends these five practices to avoid cross-contamination and foodborne illnesses from occurring:
- Provide hygiene standards regarding personal and hand hygiene, glove use, maintaining work attire, appropriate hair and jewelry, and sick policy to your employees. Ensure that everyone understands and follows the rules.
- Hand washing is critical to avoiding cross-contamination, staff should be taught how to do it properly and when it is necessary.
- Separate equipment and utensils based on the type of food they will come into with and keep them clean.
- Sanitize all of the equipment and surfaces after each use.
- Consider using semi-prepared food when it is possible. Less handling will decrease the chances of contamination.
A study of 321 restaurants performed by the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Health Specialists Network Project found that workers are more likely to wash their hands before preparing food, when they were not busy, and in establishments that had food-safety training programs and accessible hand-washing stations. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires adequate hand washing facilities in every kitchen with soap and hand drying available at all times. Equipping these areas with touch-free appliances is the safest option, as these appliances minimize cross-contamination. Automatic faucets, soap dispensers, and air dryers or paper towel dispensers will allow staff to seamlessly move through the hand washing process. This study also found that the busier working conditions are, the less likely employees are to wash their hands. A solution to this problem could be hand sanitizer that is E2-USDA approved for repetitive use in food service. It just takes 15 seconds for workers to kill bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens on their hands.
Cleaning surfaces after each use is just as important as frequent hand washing. According to the National Restaurant Association, surfaces used for food preparation must be cleaned and sanitized each time a working surface is going to be used for a different kind of food. ServSafe recommends removing food scraps, cleaning each area with soap and water, and then sanitizing. The FDA requires that employers provide cleaning supplies and keeps them in a convenient location. A wall-mounted dispenser of surface sanitizer> that is USDA-approved for food and non-food contact surfaces and paper towel dispenser may fulfill these requirements. Workers can easily access the tools they need to quickly sanitize work surfaces so they can air dry and be ready for use.
The kitchen is not the only place where hygiene matters. Restrooms must be kept clean for customers too. Patrons often believe that the bathroom is a reflection of the kitchen. After using unsanitary facilities at a restaurant, guests may believe that the kitchen is equally unkempt. In a survey, one third of participants said they would never return to an establishment with unclean restrooms and half of them would warn friends and family about their experience. It is not just the appearances that matter though, as smell is also a factor. Another study found that 66% of individuals avoid businesses with restroom odor. This is especially important for restaurants, as hunger will heighten individuals’ abilities to smell. Clean bathrooms are just as important to retaining customers as clean kitchens are for serving them safe food.
Managing a food establishment is difficult and requires supervisors to fulfill significant hygiene needs. Sanitary kitchens are absolutely necessary for a restaurant to stay in business, and so are the restrooms. Training your staff and providing the right tools in both the kitchen and the bathroom will enable your restaurant to deliver the best service possible, even when the lunch or dinner rush starts up.