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.
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.
5. Food Storage. Develop 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.