Food handling practices are essential for food businesses to ensure the safety of their customers. Food handlers must be properly trained in personal hygiene and sanitation, the appropriate temperatures for proper food storage, and other safe food handling practices.
But what exactly are safe food handling practices, and why should you implement them in your business? Keep reading to learn more about food handling practices and how you can keep your customers safe and your business running.
What is Food Handling?
Food handling is the process of preparing safe food for public consumption. This process includes everything from receiving and storing to cooking and serving. Food handling is important to food safety, and food businesses should always prioritize safe food handling practices. Otherwise, customers could become sick from foodborne illnesses, resulting in unwanted complaints and lawsuits.
Why is Food Handling Important?
Unsafe food handling can lead to outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. These illnesses can cause severe sickness and even death, so taking food handling seriously is important. Following proper food handling procedures can help prevent foodborne illnesses and keep your customers safe.
Food Handling Regulations
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established food handling regulations to help ensure food safety. These regulations cover everything from food labeling and advertising to food storage and preparation. For example, the Food Code 2017 states that “permit holders, or those who operate food establishments, must assign someone who will supervise employees in maintaining the correct temperatures during cooking, cooling, and holding.”
In other parts of the world, Australia’s ‘Food Standards Code’ puts food businesses responsible for ensuring that food handlers have the skills and knowledge of food safety and hygiene. In addition, food businesses are also required to take the necessary steps to prevent the likelihood of food contamination.
Consequences of Bad Food Handling
To show you how serious bad food handling is to your food business, we will share two separate instances of food handling negligence cases that had severe implications:
Norovirus Outbreak Case
A 2021 report featured people from King County, Washington, who dined at a certain restaurant, becoming sick with norovirus, a type of foodborne illness. This type of infection results from consuming contaminated food or touching contaminated surfaces.
The latest inspection of the said restaurant before inspection revealed that it had failed to observe several safe food handling practices, which would have prevented the norovirus outbreak, such as:
- Maintaining proper barriers to prevent bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat food.
- Keeping nonfood-contact surfaces clean and well-maintained.
- Using, storing, and sanitizing wiping cloths properly.
Blue Bell Creameries
Another example is the case of Blue Bell Creameries and their contaminated ice cream, which sparked a deadly outbreak of Listeria in 2015. The case saw Blue Bell settling its criminal liabilities with the Department of Justice with a hefty payment of $19.35 million.
Two years later, the Blue Bell shareholders sued the company for misconduct leading to the recall of its products. It reached a $60 million settlement in 2020. Last year, Blue Bell faced another lawsuit, this time against its insurance carriers, for failure to maintain standards and proper controls for sanitary and safe production.
As you can see, the implications of improper food handling can be severe. Apart from endangering people’s lives, bad food handling also has long-term legal implications, potentially leading to dire consequences that can hinder or even shut down business operations.
4 Core Safe Food Handling Practices
Also called “The 4 Steps to Food Safety,” the core safe food handling practices are clear, separate, cook, and chill. Each food type has its own food handling practices that must be followed to help prevent foodborne illnesses.
Food handlers must clean their hands and surfaces often. Wash hands with regular soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom or handling food. Apart from keeping their hands clean, food handlers also need to keep their food preparation tools (e.g., knives, cutting boards, spatulas, and pans) clean and dry.
Raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs can spread foodborne illnesses. To prevent this from happening, food handlers need to keep these items separate from each other and from ready-to-eat food. It’s also important to use different cutting boards, knives, containers, and plates for raw and cooked food. The same rule applies to other kitchen utensils that you use.
Once they finish cooking a dish, food handlers are required to check the internal temperature of the food. This process ensures that the food has been cooked long enough to kill any bacteria that might be present. Every food type has a specific internal temperature range. Food handlers should not serve or deliver food to customers if it’s not within the food’s safe temperature range. It’s important to ensure that harmful microorganisms are eliminated before the dish reaches the customer.
Bacteria can grow in food left out at room temperature for too long. So, to prevent this from happening, food handlers need to refrigerate food meant to be kept cold. This includes food like milk, cheese, eggs, and meat. If food is meant to be kept frozen, food handlers need to make sure that it’s stored in a freezer that is below 40°F (4°C)—for freezers, the temperature should be 0°F (-17°C). In addition, consider setting up temperature sensors in your kitchen to help monitor food temperature and prevent food spoilage.
Create Tools for Food Handling Practices with DATAMYTE
The best way to enforce food safety handling practices in your food business is to create tools such as workflows, forms, and checklists. These tools will help you keep track of food safety procedures and ensure that they are followed correctly. DATAMYTE and its Digital Clipboard lets you create food handling safety tools to help you monitor and document food safety handling procedures.
The DataMyte Digital Clipboard is a flexible workflow automation software that can be customized to fit your food business’s needs. It includes features like:
- Workflow builder: create comprehensive workflows for food safety handling procedures that food handlers can easily follow.
- Customizable forms and checklists: create food safety checklist templates that can be used to track food safety procedures.
- Data collection and analysis: collect data on food safety handling procedures and use it to improve your food safety practices.
- Software builder: create food safety software that can be used to monitor and enforce food safety procedures.
The DataMyte Digital Clipboard also has an easy and intuitive drag and drop feature that makes creating whatever food safety tool easy and effortless. Request a demo today to see how the DataMyte Digital Clipboard can help you create tools to enforce safe food handling practices.
By implementing safe food handling practices in your business, you can help protect your customers from foodborne illnesses. By following the tips in this article, you can create a food safety plan for your business that will help keep your business and customers safe. And with the DataMyte Digital Clipboard, you can also create food safety tools to help you monitor and enforce food safety procedures. Get started today!