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For COO's: Fighting Food-borne Illness in the Hospitality Industry

Michael Wilson | May 14, 2014

Category: Hospitality

It seems like every day you hear news about food-borne illnesses and how they can have a devastating effect on restaurants, hotels, theaters and other companies in the hospitality ...

hospitality industry food borne illnessIt seems like every day you hear news about food-borne illnesses and how they can have a devastating effect on restaurants, hotels, theaters and other companies in the hospitality industry.

Anywhere that food or beverages are served, germs can spread exponentially to infect your employees and patrons. As a COO, you’re always going to be fighting food-borne illness in the hospitality industry because the inherent risks will not be going away.

U.S. consumers are more aware than ever about hygiene and cleanliness in the establishments they visit, especially where they eat. Your company’s bottom line and ability to remain competitive are at stake if you’re not dedicating proper resources to ensuring the health and safety of your customers. A significant number of reported food poisoning incidents are traced to unsanitary conditions at the hospitality level.

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However, for COO’s, much of the spread of bacteria is preventable when you dedicate resources to properly training food service workers and implementing policies to keep germs at bay. Establishments seeking to increase their sanitation standards can benefit from some pointers on fighting food-borne illness in the hospitality industry.

Clean with paper, not cloth.

Many COO’s and managers assume that cloth towels are more hygienic than disposable paper wipes when cleaning most surfaces. Cloth is certainly seen as more cost-effective than single use towels, but the price tag isn’t justifiable from a sanitation standpoint. The fact is that germs can live for days on hard surfaces and up to several weeks on a cloth.

Compounding the problem is that rags and sponges are frequently stored in dark places and are usually still somewhat moist when they’re stowed. The result is a breeding ground for germs to spread and infect everything they touch. To the contrary, paper towels are used just once before disposal. If cloth must be used for practical reasons, make sure to wash rags properly at the end of every shift. They’re properly sanitized by washing in soapy water at 160 degrees.

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Don’t expose vulnerable patrons to undercooked foods.

All food service employees should be aware of the required minimal temperature of the food they’re preparing, and ensure all dishes comply with company policies. Rather than relying on a hunch, all workers should use a digital thermometer to indicate when the appropriate heat level is attained.

All employees should be aware of the required minimal temperature of the food they’re preparing, and ensure all dishes comply with company policies. Fighting food-borne illness in the hospitality industry means more than relying on a hunch; all workers should use a digital thermometer to indicate when the appropriate heat level is attained.

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Prevent cross-contamination.

Because bacteria can breed and survive for a lengthy amount of time on both hard and soft surfaces, there is a considerable risk of cross-contamination in hospitality and food service establishments. In addition to using paper towels, make sure employees are sanitizing knives, cutting boards and other kitchen equipment after handling raw meat.

Another tactic for preventing cross-contamination is to implement a color system for certain utensils. For instance, use red cutting boards for meat only and green boards for vegetables and herbs.

Designate separate sinks for hand, food and dish washing.

The risk of cross-contamination is high when you're washing everything in one sink. It's unsanitary to wash dirty hands in the same space as you're cleaning produce, and there's a high risk of spreading food-borne bacteria throughout the kitchen. Your food preparation area should have separate sinks for these projects, as it's not only more hygienic but required by law in many areas.

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