Why Delivery Checks are Essential to Food Safety
The point at which any food service operation receives goods into the kitchen or storage room represents a potential weakness in which hazards can penetrate the food supply chain. As a result, food service managers must have a robust, transparent system of delivery checks in place to eliminate risk and track items from pallet to plate.
What are the hazards?
Food service managers should look out for:
Damaged packaging that could cause contamination or decomposition.
Frozen or chilled foods that either do not arrive at the correct temperature, or are not transferred quickly enough to cold storage.
Cross-contamination between raw and cooked foods, or between food and cleaning products/other chemicals.
Evidence of rodent or vermin infestation.
Because of the fast-paced, frenetic nature of food service, kitchens often find themselves short-handed or rushed when deliveries arrive. Where possible, organize deliveries to arrive outside peak preparation or service times. Whatever the context, however, there should be a transparent, efficient process in place for taking deliveries. It should not be allocated arbitrarily to whoever is available – there should be a designated employee equipped with the correct materials and training to assess, log and expedite deliveries.
Why records matter
A clear, easy-to-use system for keeping records doesn’t just save time for the business. It also provides vital evidence of Due Diligence should a food safety outbreak occur, allowing the food service operator to identify, isolate and remove contaminated produce.
Modern food service businesses can use handheld digital scanners to input bar codes and tracking data, which enter deliveries automatically into the inventory. This saves time and compared to a paper-based system and minimizes the risk of human error.
Delivery checks Checklist
The designated employee should check the following:
- Best before Dates. This is a discretionary standard that indicates the food quality rather than safety.
- Use by Date. This date, on the other hand, is a critical checkpoint. Reject any item that is past its Use by Date. Not only could it be at a high risk of causing food poisoning, but it is actually an offence to offer it for sale.
- Packaging. Look out for any signs of torn packaging, dented, swollen or rusty cans.
- Temperature. Use a handheld digital thermometer to check that frozen or chilled food is actually at the required temperature. Chilled food should be between 0c and 5c, frozen food at -18c and below.
- Condition. Perform a perfunctory check of the delivery vehicle to identify any signs of corrosion or pest contamination, and stay alert to delivery drivers who do not appear to follow standard hygiene procedures or wear appropriate protective clothing.
Once the delivery has been accepted, food should be transferred as quickly as possible to the designated storage area on equipment for the intended purpose. Don’t leave deliveries standing in the sun or rain, and keep them up off the ground on pallets or a cart.
Deliveries should be dispatched efficiently to either:
Dry storage – store dry goods off the floor, on wire racks or shelves in a well-ventilated, cool room with a well-monitored pest control system in place.
Fruit and vegetable larder – remove outer packaging to mitigate the risk of pest infestation, and inspect regularly for signs of spoilage
Refrigerated storage – all items should be logged and labelled before storage, and a rotation system in place so that fresh goods are not mixed with those closer to their Use by Date. Keep separate areas for fresh deliveries and cooled, cooked foods returned to storage. The ambient temperature of the cooler should be clearly gauged and the whole unit emptied, defrosted and cleaned according to schedule.
Freezer storage – some premises will have both a blast freezer to chill foods rapidly, and a storage freezer for foods that are already frozen. As with the chiller, keep raw and cooked foods isolated, and have a system in place to continually monitor temperature and raise an alarm in case of malfunction.
Hazardous chemical storage – this should be isolated, cool and well-ventilated, as well as clearly marked with the appropriate emergency equipment in place.
Delivery checks are not a necessary nuisance for the busy kitchen – they are the vanguard of food safety.
Choose the right people to assume the role, provide sufficient training to make it run smoothly and raise objections if necessary, and monitor throughout the entire supply chain with digital tools that maintain a transparent record of each item in the inventory.