Major Components of Food Safety Programs for Restaurants, Manufacturers, and Distributors

In the US each year, there are an estimated 76 million cases of foodborne illness resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control. For restaurants, food manufacturers and distributors, food safety should be the highest priority and concern in the business.

Safety Training for California Restaurants Guide

A good food safety program that involves employee education, training, and incentives will keep your business free from bad PR and expensive lawsuits. Plus it can raise employee morale and retention while reducing turnover.

Implementing a program can be an involved and time-consuming process depending on the type of business you run, but is well worth the effort as lawsuits from foodborne illnesses can run into millions of dollars.

What are the components of a good food safety training program?

1. Employees must understand why food safety procedures are important. If they understand the “why” behind the training they are more likely to embrace the program. Preventing illness and death, company profits, staying in business, maintaining reputation, pride in quality, and retaining jobs are all reasons that hit home.

2. Personal hygiene component. It can be embarrassing for an employer and employees to discuss personal hygiene, but this is one of the most important parts of food safety and the most basic. If employees do not follow personal hygiene procedures seriously, there is little hope of them following more complex food safety requirements.

3. Cleaning and Sanitizing. Food safety revolves around cleaning and sanitizing properly and avoiding cross contact with dangerous foods. Your program should focus on the proper techniques for sanitizing equipment and materials. In your training you should cover the proper cleaning of produce and other food stuffs as well as how to disassemble equipment and clean it properly. You should also develop a customized cleaning schedule to make sure it is done on a regular basis.

4. Cross-Contamination. A good food safety training program will emphasize the importance of proper food storage to prevent cross-contamination. Make sure to identify the dangerous foods that may cause allergies or foods prone to carry bacteria. Employees should understand which foods can cause a danger to others and how to keep them safely separated.

Prevent Foodborne Illness, Cross-Contamination and Lawsuits

5. Food Storage. components of food safety programsDevelop a system to rotate stock and use older stock first. Label and mark all shipments with date, time, and supplier. Your employees should understand and adhere to the procedures to ensure foods do not become spoiled. If food does become spoiled, employees should know how to handle it. Also, if there is a recall, they should be able to quickly identify the problem item based on the system you develop.

6. Pest Control and Toxic Chemicals. You need to keep your business rodent and pest free, but also be aware of what chemicals are being used at the same time. Your food safety training program should include proper cleanup and garbage removal procedures as well as how to handle, store and apply chemicals. The last think you want is for toxic chemicals to find a way into your food!

7. Food Temperatures. All employees must know the proper temperatures prepare, store, and thaw foods to prevent harmful bacteria growth. They should memorize the danger zone and the understand how reheating and cooling food can be dangerous. They should also know the proper way to use a thermometer to check food temperatures.

8. Emergency Situations. While it is impossible to foresee and prepare for every possible emergency, consider the most likely problems and train employees how to handle them. What would happen if a sewer backed up? If refrigeration failed? If pest control chemicals spilled into a vat while there was a huge order being prepared under a tight deadline? If a shipment was rotten or contaminated and there was no other supplier? By using what if scenarios and asking your employees how they would react, you are preparing them to think properly in the event of an emergency. It can also help you identify possible leadership. Always stress food safety as a result of their emergency actions.

If you have a food business in California and would like a copy of our food safety checklist, contact Invensure at (800) 331-4700. We insure food businesses and help implement safety and OSHA compliance measures in order to reduce liability and control the cost of risk.

Food Safety for Restaurants: How to Prevent Foodborne Illness, Cross Contamination, and Lawsuits

Foodborne illness causes an estimated 47.8 million sicknesses and about 3,000 deaths annually in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2011, an outbreak of a foodborne illness from Listeria-contaminated cantaloupe took at least 13 lives.

Restaurants and their employees are responsible for the safety of their dishes and the health and safety of their customers.

If someone gets sick from eating food prepared
in your restaurant, you could:

Foodborne illness can be prevented with a food safety program

  • Be sued
  • Be found liable in a lawsuit
  • Be responsible for the medical costs
  • Be responsible for monetary settlements, which have amounted
    to millions of dollars in several wrongful death cases
  • Destroy the reputation of your business
  • Lose your business
  • Have to file bankruptcy

Download a copy of this report

Common causes of foodborne illness

Reasons people become infected is because of bacteria growth, improper food storage, improper food prep hygiene, cross contamination, undercooked meat, and infected prep workers transmitting illness to the consumer.

The CDC estimates that 9.4 million of annual illnesses are caused by 31 known foodborne pathogens, and that 90% of all illnesses due to known pathogens are caused by: Salmonella, norovirus, Campylobacter, Toxoplasma, E. coli O157:H7, Listeria and Clostridium perfringens.

How to prevent food contamination and
foodborne illnesses in your restaurant

It all starts with your supplier

Once food has been contaminated, there is no way to change that. If you purchase produce from a farm and it has e. coli bacteria, you will transmit that to your customers. You could be found liable for serving the tainted food.

Do your homework when choosing your suppliers. Choose reputable distributors and make sure you are receiving good quality, fresh food items. Ask questions about the safety mechanisms they have in place to prevent contamination.

Develop a system to quickly identify all inventory from a particular supplier, so if one supplier has a recall, you can quickly deal with it and keep business moving at the same time.

Keep cold foods cold until ready to use
You must keep frozen food frozen and cold food below 41 degrees through the transportation and storage process. If food that needs refrigeration is left above 41 degrees for more than four hours, there is a high risk of foodborne illness caused by bacterial growth.

Make sure your suppliers follow the cold chain and once the items are in your facility, use strict measures to ensure they are refrigerated immediately and all fridges and freezers are operating at the proper temperatures. The less time foods are at temperatures above 41 degrees, the less opportunity for bacteria to grow.

Foods must be cooked to proper temperatures

Safe food temperatures to prevent harmful bacteria growth and foodborne illness

This is a general guide to safe food temperatures to prevent harmful bacteria growth and foodborne illness

Always use a meat thermometer to make sure that food has been cooked to a safe temperature. Food that does not reach a safe temperature can allow bacteria to breed and cause illness.
Put the thermometer into the thickest part of the cut to make sure it has cooked all the way through. Do not allow it to touch the bone as this will give an incorrect temperature. The temperatures on this chart must be maintained for at least 15 seconds to kill harmful bacteria.

About microwave cooking

Microwaves tend to cook food unevenly. Stir food while it is cooking and leave it covered for two minutes after it is done. This will ensure the even distribution of heat to destroy bacteria in colder spots.

Cross-contamination is the leading cause of foodborne illness

Cross contamination occurs when bacteria is transferred from one food item to another via work surface, improper storage, thawing, preparation, or the cooking process.

  • Use separate knives for poultry, meats, and produce.
  • Use separate cutting boards for meats, poultry, and produce.
  • Never put cooked food onto a plate or tray that has
    been used for raw foods.
  • Use high heat for sterilization when washing dishes that have come in contact with raw foods.
  • Wash all foods well before preparing.
  • Wash hands with anti-bacterial soap frequently during the cooking process. Do not handle coked food after handling raw food without washing hands first or changing gloves.
  • Do not use the same utensils for cooked and raw foods.

Employee food safety training is the law in California

Washing hands can help prevent cross contaminationAll your employees need to get their California Food Handler Cards. Not only is it the law in California as of January 1, 2012, it is an essential overview of food safety and a good learning opportunity for employees new to the industry or younger workers.

Once employees are trained and have their cards, there is no excuse for them not working in the safest, cleanest manner possible. Make sure your employees know that food safety is a priority in your restaurant and quality standards must be maintained at all times.

How to protect yourself when all else fails

Even the most careful food suppliers, chefs, and restaurants can still have instances of food contamination and resulting illness. You can do everything in your power to run a clean, safe kitchen, but there is always the chance that something outside of your control can happen.

Work with an expert to get a good restaurant insurance policy that is tailored to your facility. It is important to work with someone who knows the industry well and understands how your restaurant is unique. A restaurant insurance specialist can help identify the risks and advise the best protection for your situation.

Restaurant insurance coverages that can help protect you

Food contamination coverage: Covers you financially in the event of food poisoning or communicable diseases transmitted by an employee.

Food product liability coverage: If you are producing goods for sale, this can protect you in the event that your food product causes harm to the user.

Food spoilage coverage:
If your refrigeration breaks down or your power goes out, the spoil food can be replaced if you have this coverage.

Food product recall coverage: If the food products you sell are recalled, your expenses that result will be covered, such as the cost to notify consumers, shipping and disposal of the product, refunding the customer, and more.

If you have questions or need assistance,
restaurant insurance experts are here to help.
Call (800) 331-4700

Why Food Product Liability Insurance Coverage Will Save Your Food Business from Bankruptcy

If you want to protect your food business from the financial damage of a lawsuit, food product liability insurance is essential. Food can easily spoil or become contaminated at many points through its life cycle. From being contaminated at the farm where it grows (as in recent e. coli outbreaks), to its storage, transportation, manufacture, and preparation there are multiple points of contact where a problem can occur.

Food Product Liability Insurance Can Save Your Business if You are Sued

You can use all the care in the world in your process, but if food you receive is contaminated with bacteria, you could be held liable if someone gets sick.

Even when food safety and hygiene is a priority in the operations of your business, there is always a chance for an error that can expose you to a lawsuit. Even if you do everything right, you could receive a shipment of contaminated food and pass on that on to a consumer, in which case you may be liable, even if you did nothing wrong.

Common bacteria that cause foodborn illness are e. coli, listeria, mad cow disease, and salmonella. If the food is not refrigerated or processed properly, the end product can cause illness or even death to those who consume it.

Food labeling is also another serious issue that can lead to lawsuits if it is not done properly. Not only can the food company be sued for improper labeling or mislabeling, the organizations using those food products can be liable for lawsuits as well.

Many people suffer from food allergies, and can become seriously ill or even die if they eat the wrong thing. Common food allergies include: peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, lactose, and wheat gluten. If food is not labeled properly, such as “processed in a plant that contains peanuts,” a lawsuit can ensue.

If a food manufacturer, farm, or restaurant causes a consumer to become ill, they can be sued and be held liable. The cost of legal defense is extremely high, and monetary rewards or settlements out of court can be astronomical. Food product liability insurance will cover costs of a lawsuit, and protect the financial well being of the company sued.

Invensure has experts on staff that can help you determine what amount of coverage you need. We have been serving Southern California for over 35 years, and have agents who work exclusively with restaurants, food manufacturers, and distributors.

Call today to learn more. (800) 331-4700

California Food Handler Card: Law SB 602 Requires Food Safety Training

Starting in June of 2011, California law SB 602 began to require that all restaurant food handlers take a food safety training course and pass a test. Once the test is passed, they would receive a California Food Handler Card. The questions that beg to be asked are: How many restaurant owners know about this law? How many restaurant “food handlers” have these cards? The answer is not very many.

California Food Handler Card

Food handlers in California restaurants are required by law to have a California Food Handler Card

In case if you didn’t know, here is an overview:

In California, people who prepare, serve, or store food for a restaurant are required to have a California Food Handler Card. Within 30 days of being hired, a food handler must take a certified food safety course and pass a test with a score of 70% or higher.

The law does not apply to food handlers in Riverside, San Bernardino, or San Diego counties, but the cards are required in the rest of the state of California. The counties mentioned above have more specific laws regarding this issue.

Once the employee receives the card, they are to make a copy of the card and give it to the employer. In turn, the employer is required to keep records of all employees and ensure their cards are up to date. This is required by law.

Health inspectors enforce the law and they will ask for the records during an inspection.

For the fill text of SB 602, click here.

The classes are inexpensive, the law says that there must be at least one course that costs no more than $15, and the law caps fees at $60 for testing and certificate to ensure affordability for food handlers. The law does not specify if the employer or employee is responsible for the cost of testing and food safety certification.

Apparently, there is another bill in the works, SB 303, that will clarify the message of the first bill.

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