Articles and Information from GA Foods

The FOUR Things ALL Food Service Staff Need to Know!

Posted by Maureen Garner, MS, RD, LD on Aug 18, 2016 2:34:39 PM

The most important component of food safety is employee training. Though some foodborne illnesses can be traced to specific suppliers, the manner in which food is handled is usually the culprit. 

Investing in training procedures that educate food handlers about the proper way to prepare food is of the utmost importance. Something as simple as an unwashed hand or a seemingly innocent sneeze really can compromise the integrity of a food product. Too many food service providers make the critical mistake of assuming that food handlers understand the nuances of proper personal hygiene. Some employees mistakenly believe that their personal hygiene is up to par when, in reality, it does not meet the standards of their employer.

Hand_Washing.png1. Proper Hand Washing

Every food service worker should be thoroughly trained in regard to how to clean his hands. Simply running warm water over one’s hands with a dab of soap will not provide a comprehensive clean that guarantees food safety. Rather, employees must be shown how to properly wash their hands. They should have the opportunity to view an in-person demonstration as to how hands must be cleaned before work starts, before returning from break/lunch and after using the restroom. To the surprise of many, a thorough hand-cleaning requires the use of hot water and anti-bacterial soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. Employees should be taught to perform a mental countdown during this hand-washing period to ensure their hands are thoroughly cleaned. Even the lower portion of the wrists should be cleaned as this area often comes into contact with food, dishes and utensils.

2. Correct Food Handling

It is imperative that food service providers train their staff to handle food in the proper manner. Every food service worker should use gloves unless gloves preclude the proper preparation of the food. The unfortunate truth is that few food service workers use food prep gloves as they should. Plenty of food service workers will touch food with their bare hands, assuming that a hand-washing performed hours ago will prevent the transmission of harmful bacteria and other particles that can cause illness. Food service managers should explain that touching knife handles, cutting boards, pots, pans, trays and other kitchen items can result in tainted food. Each of these kitchen items has the potential to harbor germs and viruses. Merely touching a pan’s handle with one’s hand and then using that hand to prepare food can spread germs to a diner’s meal. Employees must also be trained to discard their gloves after they have come into contact with other potentially germ-laden surfaces. Keep a fresh supply of food prep gloves on-hand at all times so food service workers do not hesitate to scrap their used gloves for a new pair that is guaranteed to be germ-free. Though a steady supply of food prep gloves will certainly add to overhead expenses, their aggregate cost is minimal compared to the risk of sickening a patron and the financial impact of an outbreak of food poisoning.

3. Avoiding Cross-Contamination

Proper food handling procedures extend beyond washing one’s hands and using food prep gloves. Employees must be extensively trained regarding cross-contamination prevention tactics. If possible, use color-coded cutting boards for different ingredients.  For example, green for produce and red for raw meat.  If budget doesn’t allow for designated cutting boards, food handlers should be taught to clean cutting boards and other food preparation surfaces after cutting raw meat, fish and poultry. These surfaces should be cleaned with hot, soapy water and sanitized with at least one tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach (or similar sanitizer) mixed with a gallon of water. 

Utensils used to prepare these foods should be cleaned with hot water and an anti-bacterial dish liquid before being returned to the food preparation area. If these food prep items are not thoroughly cleaned, they could carry harmful bacteria from the meat, poultry or fish and transmit it to the next item that is sliced on the surface or prepared with previously used utensils. Furthermore, it is imperative that food service managers train their staff to keep marinated poultry and meat in a covered dish at all times. This way, potentially harmful airborne particles will not be able to reach the food as it soaks up the marinade’s flavors in the ensuing hours.

thermometer_food_storage.jpg4. Storing Food and Temperature Management

When it comes to food storage, a surprising number of food service managers errantly assume their staff understands the basics. It is widely assumed that food service workers know the ins and outs of proper food storage simply because they have experience in the industry. In reality, most food service workers have drastically different ideas as to what qualifies as the proper way to store food. This is precisely why every employee should be extensively educated regarding the appropriate temperature for food storage and cooking.

If the temperature in the kitchen/food prep space is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, perishable food should be refrigerated within an hour or less. Otherwise, the widely accepted food safety standard for perishable food is to properly store in the refrigerator within two hours or less. Merely tossing perishable food like poultry and meat into the refrigerator/freezer will not suffice. These sensitive items should be tightly wrapped in a secure manner to preserve their quality. A thorough wrapping will also guard against meat juices from leaking out and tainting other food.

Food service workers should also be taught to use a thermometer to check the temperature of the on-site refrigerator and freezer on a regular basis. The refrigerator should always be at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less at all times. The freezer should be kept at zero degrees Fahrenheit or less. Though many food service employees will let fresh fish, poultry and ground meats sit in their home refrigerator/freezer for several days, there is a different standard when it comes to serving the public. Such food should be either cooked or frozen within two days. Pork, lamb, veal and beef should be cooked or frozen in five days or less.

For more training resources, download our free food safety training modules!

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Topics: Food Safety

Best Practices in Food Safety

Posted by Paula Ardilla, QA/HACCP Coordinator on Jul 13, 2016 11:00:00 AM

When it comes to food preparation, one can never be too safe. As evidenced by Chipotle's norovirus outbreak, foodborne illness has the potential to harm consumers and devastate a business's bottom line. The manner in which food is handled during the preparation process plays a significant part in determining its on-the-plate integrity. Sure, some of the blame for foodborne illnesses can be cast upon food suppliers that fail to grow, cleanse, store and deliver ingredients in the proper manner. Yet the main onus of food safety is on those who actually handle the food immediately before it is served.

Common Food Safety Stumbling Blockstemp_taking.jpg

Harmful bacteria can't be seen, tasted or smelled. This is precisely why food safety is such a daunting challenge. A food handler could prepare an absolutely gorgeous meal with diverse colors and tasty ingredients, serve it at the perfect temperature and unknowingly sicken diners. Even the slightest mistake in food preparation has the potential to result in mass illness.

In some instances, the ingredients are tainted with E. Coli or Salmonella from the get-go. In other instances, the food handler makes an error in the cold holding of temperature control for food safety. Some over-sanitize their food preparation space, unintentionally poisoning entree ingredients. Or, maybe food workers show up to their shift with unwashed hands or an illness and spread bacteria to a side dish/main course. A myriad of other food safety stumbling blocks regularly rear their ugly heads, from pest activity to cross-contamination and the use of expired ingredients.

The Four Main Steps of Food Safety

The Food Safe Families campaign has garnered significant attention for its food handling advice. The four steps of the campaign are as follows:

  1. Clean: Food handlers should always wash their hands before touching food. They should also wash their hands when returning from break and lunch. Furthermore, food preparation workers should thoroughly clean their hands after using the restroom. Merely running warm water over the fingers will not suffice. Rather, an extensive washing with hot water and anti-bacterial soap for at least 20 seconds is necessary.
  2. Separate: Food prep workers should be hyper-conscious of the possibility for cross-contamination. Cross-contamination can occur in a physical, chemical or biological manner. As an example, food handlers should take great care to avoid preparing something like a salad on a surface upon which raw meat was chopped.
  3. Cook: It is imperative that food handlers remain cognizant of the temperature at which each dish should be cooked. If meat, poultry and fish are not cooked at the proper temperature, the raw or under-cooked flesh could sicken diners. It is prudent to place cooking temperature “cheat sheets” in areas of the kitchen where meals are cooked.
  4. Chill: Food should not be left on the counter or other room-temperature areas to sit for extended periods of time. When in doubt, refrigerate food in a prompt manner. This way, there won't be an opportunity for bacteria to accumulate and possibly sicken those who consume the food at a later date.

Perishable food should be refrigerated within two hours, regardless of the circumstances. If the temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, perishable items should be refrigerated within the hour or less. Unfortunately, many restaurants, eateries and other food service providers fail to check the temperature of their refrigerator and freezer on a regular basis. Use an appliance thermometer to ensure that the refrigerator is at a maximum of 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The freezer should be kept at a maximum of zero degrees Fahrenheit. For more information on the steps to safe food, check out this blog article.

Food That Lacks an Expiration Date

If you were to poll food service workers regarding the expiration date for fresh food, you would receive an array of different answers. Most people think that fresh poultry, ground meats and fish can last for days. The truth is that these foods should be either cooked or frozen within two days after purchase. When it comes to veal, pork and lamb, the cook/freeze window stretches to a mere 3-5 days.

Freezing food is necessary to preserve its integrity beyond its initial freshness date. When in doubt, throw it out. Customer illness due to improper storage and general food worker negligence has the potential to harm the bottom line and even lead to crippling lawsuits.

Additional Food Preparation Tips

hand_washing.jpgThough most food service workers understand the importance of washing their hands, many forget to perform a thorough cleanse after handling food. It might seem a bit egregious to wash one's hands after handling each unique ingredient yet such a food safety tactic is vitally important to prevent the spread of bacteria and other harmful particles. Furthermore, the cutting boards, counter tops and utensils used to prepare food should be regularly sanitized with liquid chlorine bleach and water.

GA Foods is creating a culture of food safety. Our goal is to become the industry gold standard in food safety and facility sanitation. We also want to help other dining sites and facilities excel in food safety practices. We have created FREE food safety training modules for your staff. Click below to download.

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Topics: Food Safety, Food Safety Best Practices

The Beginner’s Guide to Food Safety

Posted by Paula Ardilla, QA/HACCP Coordinator on Apr 13, 2016 11:00:00 AM

Even though the United States has one of the safest food supplies in the world, it is still exposed to environmental hazards. Education and training are among the most important aspects in preventing foodborne illness.

Foodborne illness can attack anyone, especially pregnant women, young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems. This illness can be quite mild in some cases, but in others it can lead to serious health complications, or even death. Per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 48 million people get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases every year.

These safe food-handling practices will keep you and your family free from foodborne illness:

Keep it Clean!Food-Safety.png

Bacteria can be found anywhere and can spread fast, producing many diseases, including foodborne illness.

  • Always wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before food preparation, after handling raw meats, fish, or poultry, before eating, after using the bathroom, changing diapers, and handling pets.
  • Bacteria can be spread on all surfaces and utensils, cutting boards, sponges and countertops. Wash with hot, soapy water and thoroughly rinse. Allow to air dry to prevent re-contaminating the surfaces with a dirty towel. For utensils that have direct contact with raw meats, like knives or cutting boards, sanitize them or wash in a dishwasher.
  • Don’t forget to rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under running tap water before eating. Clean the lids of canned goods before opening.

Separate Foods

Cross-contamination is the physical transfer of harmful bacteria from one person, object or place to another. This is especially true when handling raw meats, poultry, and seafood. It’s important to keep meats and their juices in a separate area from ready-to-eat foods and fresh produce at all times:

  • Separate foods when shopping, storing, preparing, and serving.
  • Keep all the areas clean when preparing food. Use a clean cutting board and knife.
  • Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter. If using the marinade as a sauce, boil just before using.

Cook to the Proper Temperature

To ensure food is safe to eat and free of harmful bacteria, it is necessary to cook the food until it reaches a high enough internal temperature. This is especially true when preparing raw meat, poultry, seafood or eggs. Color is not a reliable indicator of doneness. The best way to assure food is ready, is by using a clean thermometer to verify the internal temperature. Click here to download our Safe Cooking Temperature Chart for appropriate temperatures.

Keep it Cool! 

Keep the refrigerator temperature at 40ºF or below and the freezer temperature at 0ºF or below. The most important thing to remember is all cooked foods should cool to 41ºF or colder in a maximum of 6 hours. (Reduce the temperature to 70ºF within two hours of preparation and from 70ºF to 41ºF or colder within the additional four hour period). When you prepare and cook food ahead, divide large portions into small, shallow containers and refrigerate, this will ensure rapid safe cooling.

As you can see, properly handling food can help save many lives! It is in your hands to protect yourself, your family, and others from foodborne illness. Remember to follow these basic four steps: Clean, Separate, Cook and Cool. And don’t forget the most important of all: always prepare food with love!

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Topics: Food Safety, Food Safety Best Practices

The GA Foods Cold Chain Gang: Putting Your Health at the Forefront

Posted by Frank Curto on Sep 30, 2014 4:54:00 PM

Have you ever wondered how the food you eat was handled before you receive it?

  • Was it handled in a sanitary manner?
  • Was it cooked to the right temperature?
  • Was it refrigerated properly?
  • Is it safe to eat?!

The impact of food safety on foodborne illness

A quick look at the statistics surrounding foodborne illness will confirm that your concerns are well warranted!

It is estimated that foodborne diseases account for 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths in the United States annually. Although there are multiple causes of foodborne illness, improper temperature control is a common failure in many segments of the food service production and distribution chain.

Weak links in the Cold Chain make you sick

Frank-Curto2Although the food industry has adopted several methods of packaging, transporting, and delivering food, the “cold chain” process has emerged as the most reliable method of assuring food safety. With this method, food is maintained at temperatures that prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that can make you sick. These bacteria are known as pathogens and are responsible for the majority of foodborne related illnesses.

Food Safety = All Hands on Deck

Food safety is not achieved by chance or by luck. It requires a concerted effort by everyone involved in the process. From the janitor to the CEO, the cook to the delivery driver – every member of a food service team must be knowledgeable of and dedicated to the necessary steps involved in keeping food safe throughout the entire cold chain. This level of unity is the foundation of the processes and systems required to ensure that the chain is never broken and that safe, quality, nourishing food is always delivered.

Because processes and systems are only as good as the people that carry them out, safe quality food must be part of a food service provider’s organizational culture. At GA Foods, our entire food service team is involved in on-going education and training programs on the foundational principles of food safety. This training empowers them with the knowledge of just how important their specific job is to the cold chain process and to our common goal of excellence in food quality and safety.

GA Foods: Nourishment. Delivered.

Our core values instill a sense of pride as each member of our team carries out his or her job duties with excellence. Each person driven by a sense of ownership, accountability and integrity, armed with the knowledge that they are an important link in the cold chain and are in fact making a difference and touching lives every day.

Our philosophy on food safety is simple yet effective – safe quality food is the result of scientifically sound processes and systems carried out by dedicated and well trained people in a practical and effective manner. Our state of the art, USDA Inspected facility, coupled with our high sanitation & food handling standards provides us with an environment to assure our products are produced under the highest sanitary conditions.

Food production operations featuring high speed assembly lines, rapid and continuous cooling and freezing equipment, under the guidance of our science based HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point) quality assurance and food safety processes eliminates the element of chance in our assurances to preserve the cold chain.

It is with this dedication to a unified team effort that GA Foods eliminates weak links in the cold chain. It is with this knowledge that we assure you, our valued customer that you are in safe hands with us.

In confidence and great appreciation we wish you Bon Appetite!

 

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 Click the image or here to download full size infographic.

Sources:
Mead et al. (1999)
2001 Food Code – Public Health Service, Food & Drug Administration
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

 

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Topics: The Cold Chain, Food Safety

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