Basic Principles of Food Safety

May 11, 2017
Cedric Seguela

Every food business uses, processes, and sells food in different ways. However, the general issues and key principles of food safety remain the same, whatever the style of the operation.

Food must be kept out of harm’s way from human errors, but if you don’t train food workers what they are, they won’t know why these factors are so important to your operation. The basics can make us or break us in one or maybe two food handling mistakes. There are three basic principles to ensure food safety and they are:

Professional Personal Hygiene

It’s not all common sense to everyone. Food workers must observe the highest possible standards of personal hygiene to make certain that food does not become contaminated by pathogenic microorganisms, physical or chemical hazards. High standards of personal hygiene also play an important part in creating a good public image, as well as protecting food. Hand washing, fingernails, food worker illness policy (including exclusion of ill workers, cuts, burns, bandages, etc.), hair, uniforms, glove use, jewelry, personal cleanliness, or unsanitary habits such as eating, drinking, smoking, or spitting are all parts of defining personal hygiene standards. Poor hand washing is one of the leading causes of foodborne illness.

 Time & Temperature Control of Foods

We can reduce bacterial growth in potentially hazardous foods by limiting the time food is in the danger zone (140° F to 41° F) during any steps of the food flow from receiving through service. The FDA Food Code recommendation no more than a cumulative 4 hours in the danger zone. Use a calibrated thermometer to chart time and temperature based upon your menu for: cold holding (41° F), hot holding (140° F), cooking (based on the food), reheating (165° F), and cooling. Rapid cooling of hot foods or foods cooked several hours advance of service is a special challenge, which allows a six hour two stage cooling method (140° F to 70° F in 2 hours and 70° F to 41° F in 4 hours).

Cross-contamination Prevention

This is simply the transfer of harmful microorganisms or substances to food and covers a multitude of potential food handling errors in all stages of food flow. Cross-contamination can occur at any time.

The three routes:
1) food to food
2) hands to food
3) equipment to food

Ready-to-eat foods must receive the most care to prevent contamination.

Food service is frequently dealing with employee turnover, so the job of training staff on professional hygiene, time/temperature, and cross-contamination control is never ending. These three issues contain lots of separate categories or steps to help keep the foodborne bugs at bay. An overall “food safety policy” statement is a good idea to start with for all staff that focuses on the group’s responsibility to help control these three issues. It’s up to each person in charge to help the crew individually understand their responsibility for food safety that is appropriate in their specific food handling tasks. Active managerial control means supervisors must monitor the crew’s adherence to your policy, make corrective actions, and set the example.


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