Good kitchen hygiene and safety practices are essential for any multi-site restaurant business, particularly in an era where open kitchens and front-of-house prep spaces mean consumers instantly form an impression of a brand from what they see before them. Fortunately, there are some innovative solutions and excellent advice out there to make kitchens a safer and more hygienic place for staff to work…
If you think UK restaurants need to do a lot more on the kitchen hygiene front, you’re not alone. Nearly half of hospitality managers consider British employees to fall short of their European counterparts in their knowledge and commitment to food safety and hygiene, according to new research.
Authors of the report insist the statistics are “particularly concerning” for customers with allergies and intolerances, especially given several high-profile allergy-related deaths in recent years. Natasha’s Law has subsequently been introduced to protect allergy sufferers and give them confidence in the food they buy.
Dr. Richard Anderson, head of learning at online training provider High Speed Training, which released the report, says: “The perception amongst hospitality professionals that UK workers lack the food hygiene and safety awareness of their European colleagues is extremely concerning. Hospitality has a widening skills gap and Brexit will potentially accelerate this shortage due to the industry’s strong reliance on migrant workers.”
It is certainly a pertinent issue, especially when Britain operates the food hygiene rating scheme and restaurants need to conform to stringent FSA standards.
The first criterion that an Environmental Health Officer (EHO) will consider is confidence in management. This isn’t just how competent the kitchen manager is but gives careful consideration to documented food safety management systems (HACCP), record keeping and the general approach to food safety demonstrated during inspection.
“A properly documented food safety management system will fully reflect the processes followed in a kitchen, identifying where any hazards are and the controls you’ve put in place to ensure the hazards do not affect the food you serve,” explains Fiona Sinclair, director at food safety consultancy STS. “Some controls will be classed as critical (CCPs) and are usually the ones which are monitored, such as fridge temperatures or the end of cooking temperatures of foods.”
The perception amongst hospitality professionals that UK workers lack the food hygiene and safety awareness of their European colleagues is extremely concerning”
EHOs will be looking to see whether restaurants have identified the CCPs and that suitable records to demonstrate daily control have been put in place. They will also look at how well-trained staff are. Food hygiene training is essential and the Level 2 Award in Food Safety is the accepted standard. However, EHOs also want to see staff demonstrate their understanding of food safety and, more specifically, the food safety controls detailed in a restaurant’s food safety management system.
The second fundamental area on their agenda is the structural condition of the operation, including how clean the premises is, from the walls, floors and ceiling to the kitchen equipment.
Accurate cleaning schedules can help improve or maintain standards. A good schedule will identify all cleaning tasks, the frequency of cleaning and the equipment or chemicals necessary to complete the cleaning.
It’s very important to use two stage cleaning techniques, suggests Sinclair. “The E.coli guidance sets out recommendations for ensuring food preparation surfaces and equipment are properly cleaned after preparing raw meat and EHOs are always on the lookout for this. In most inspections, they will ask staff to demonstrate their cleaning techniques so it’s important that staff are aware of the need to clean surfaces down with detergent or sanitiser to remove food debris and grease, then to clean down again with a sanitiser, allowing the product to remain on the surface for the correct contact time to kill bacteria.”
The third fundamental aspect is hygiene standards, taking into account elements such as cross-contamination control, personal hygiene standards and temperature control. Maintaining temperature control of foods during storage, cooking/reheating, cooling and service is vitally important.
If restaurants can prove that they know their temperature targets and have the right tools, such as working probe thermometers and antibacterial probe wipes, then they are a long way down the road to compliance. Recording temperatures helps close the loop.
A properly documented food safety management system will fully reflect the processes followed in a kitchen”
EHOs are also looking at food cooling with increased detail, says Sinclair.
“It’s essential to ensure you cool food as quickly as possible, although there’s a common misconception that you only have 90 minutes in which to cool food to below 8°C. That is the case with blast chillers but if you’re manually cooling food, for example with ice baths or in a cool area, you need to make sure you cool foods as quickly as possible, getting them into the fridge within 90 minutes to two hours.
“The current edition of the Catering Guide recommends cooling to 20°C within two hours before putting into the fridge. This doesn’t mean it should take two hours to get cooling foods into the fridge every time; you should take as many steps as possible to ensure that food is cooled as quickly as possible,” she adds.
There are many details to consider, but getting them right will result in a food hygiene rating to give customers the confidence they are seeking.
CLEANING: Mechline’s HyGenikx system eradicates foodservice bacteria and viruses
Mechline’s new revolutionary air and surface hygiene system, HyGenikx, is proven to eradicate bacteria and viruses throughout the foodservice and hospitality environment — helping to improve cleanliness and infection control for customers and staff.
Food safety is one of — if not the biggest — concern within foodservice operations and operators are under pressure to control and implement the highest of hygiene standards. The problem is, microorganisms that spread infections, compromise hygiene standards, cause food to spoil and create offensive odours multiply very quickly and it is very difficult for traditional cleaning methods to keep pace.
“In just eight hours, a single bacterial cell can multiply to over eight million, meaning that health risks and odours remain a major problem, with standard room cleaning and disinfecting procedures only offering a temporary solution,” explains Mechline’s marketing manager Kristian Roberts.
“Many foodservice establishments still only use fragrances which attempt to mask odours and do not target the source: the contamination both in the air and on surfaces.”
Designed specifically for foodservice environments, HyGenikx works safely all day and every day, eliminating bacteria and viruses found in the air and on exposed surfaces in a given space, even in the hardest-to-reach places.
The advanced and compact wall-mounted system utilises a combination of the most effective air and surface sterilisation technologies available (dual waveband UV, germicidal irradiation, photocatalytic oxidation) to produce superoxide ions and plasma quattro, which are proven to eradicate harmful bacteria, viruses, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), moulds and fungi, as well as neutralise all odours.
HyGenikx targets and kills biological hazards in the kitchen, including salmonella, escherichia coli (E. coli), norovirus and other primary sources of infections, and has been proven to eliminate harmful Listeria in an independent validation study carried out by ALS Laboratories — the UK’s leading provider of food and drink testing services.
“Another study, again conducted by ALS, was carried out with the purpose of validating the ability of HyGenikx to prolong the shelf life of perishable food stored in a coldroom and improve environmental conditions,” continues Roberts.
“The overall results here showed that HyGenikx increased the shelf life of fresh produce on average by 58.1%, or ~7.5 days (with some produce proving to last as much as 150% longer), improved surface hygiene by ~45% and reduced the overall airborne contamination levels by ~76% during the length of the trial (31 days).”
TEMPERATURE MONITORING: Monika ensures safe food through safe storage
Ensuring food is at a safe temperature at every stage from when it arrives on your premises to when it is served to customers is critical to avoid food-borne illness and the disastrous consequences that come with it.
However, many businesses still rely on manual recording, requiring staff members to write down the temperatures of equipment multiple times a day. Not only is this time-consuming but it does not always hold up to scrutiny.
Moving to a paperless system such as MonikaPrime for temperature monitoring avoids these issues, ensures best practice and leads to improved compliance and, importantly, safe food. MonikaPrime is a cloud-based food safety suite with an Equipment Management module which monitors temperatures continuously by collecting data from sensors installed among the food within a cabinet.
The sensors simulate the temperature of the food and trigger alarms when this moves out of safe range. If only air temperatures are monitored — for instance by reading a unit’s digital display — there is a large margin for error as food is typically slow to react to air temperature changes.
UK sales director, Rag Hulait, says: “Imagine the cost and inconvenience if you arrive at your restaurant one morning and find your walk-in freezer malfunctioned overnight, and everything is already ruined. Or, what if there has been a power outage and you have no idea how long the equipment has been off for, and therefore whether the food inside is still safe?
“This is a dilemma many chefs would not want to face, and the good news is that with automatic monitoring they won’t have to.”
Temperatures are recorded 24 hours/7 days per week, so users can also identify failing equipment, allowing stock to be saved. And, for multi-site restaurant chains, powerful supporting software allows equipment performance to be analysed across the estate, helping to plan and prioritise maintenance.
The MonikaPrime suite also includes a Team Management solution, which uses a Bluetooth Smart Probe paired with a Smart PA — a handheld android device — to record temperatures of food items at all stages of the cooking process. Software prompts users to perform other food safety tasks such as cleaning, and allows them to register deliveries, record staff training and log occurrences. www.monika.com