Food Hygiene Horror Stories (and how to avoid them!)
We just couldn’t resist doing a halloween themed blog for you. After this year, I think we could all do with a spot of light relief! Although food hygiene is a frightfully important matter, we’ve kept our tips on how to avoid a food hygiene horror story of your own light-hearted and informative. Please leave us a comment if you’ve enjoyed reading this!
What we’re going to Cover:
Pest Control - let’s keep the rats, critters and creepy crawlies out of the kitchen!
Right off the bat (*Pun warning in advance, they’re going to keep coming!), we’re starting with pest control.
Pest infestations are always one which is going to get your food business’s name up in lights and not in a good way. The media love a pest infestation story! But you are legally required to maintain a pest-free food business – pest control is an absolute must. Pests risk a range of different types of food contamination from spreading germs and bacteria to becoming physical contamination if they (heaven forbid) end up baked and served as part of your food offering. Putting the rat in ratatouille isn’t a good idea.
We’d like to say this never happens, but unfortunately, it does. So how do you prevent this from happening in your food business?
- Keep all food items stored correctly in sealed containers so pests can’t get access.
- Avoid storing food items on a floor and all frozen/refrigerated items must be kept at the correct temperatures with clear use-by dates.
- Maintain regular and thorough cleaning. Seems obvious, but sometimes dirt and food waste can build up in out of sight places before you know it – such as behind large appliances, under cupboards and around bins. Ensuring you have a daily cleaning checklists that cover all areas of your premises for cleaning makes sure these aren’t missed. Having a digital cleaning checklist, which reminds staff to do their checks and tell you if they’ve not been done can really help to ensure cleaning checks are never missed. Let’s not serve up an all you can eat buffet for our furry friends.
- If you do discover a pest infestation act immediately. Throw away (securely) any food items which may have been contaminated and take steps to uncover the root cause. You may need to call in an expert contractor to remove the pests if it’s become a real issue. Check for any cracks or hiding holes, especially those with access to the outside as this is where your freeloading diners may be gaining access.
Chemical Contamination - let’s not go all mad scientist and experiment with chemicals in the kitchen.
We totally encourage you to explore your inner mad scientist to concoct unique and fabulous new dishes to delight your guests, but when it comes to the chemicals you’re using, let’s keep that to the approved types – yeh?
So chemical contamination is one of the more tricky food hygiene issues to spot, as usually chemicals are invisible and there’s no sign of contamination when you simply look at your food. It’s therefore super important that you never use any ‘non-food safe’ chemicals in your kitchen environment so there’s never a risk of chemical contamination from things such as cleaning products. So how can you prevent it:
- Check all of your chemicals that you’re using in your kitchen are food safe. It will clearly state this on the bottle. If you’re still unsure, consult with your suppliers and ask them to confirm that the items you’re using are food safe.
- Avoid bleach. Bleach really isn’t good as this can cause some really nasty issues when ingested.
- Make sure all bottle labels are clearly marked. Avoid decanting chemicals into different bottles and never refill an existing bottle with a different chemical as you won’t have any way to check what the contents are.
- Wipes are always preferred to sprays. You have far less control over a spray so can’t be as accurate in the direction in which the chemical is spurting out at. This can unknowingly cause chemical contamination. Stick to wipes as this gives you far more control and can be discarded after use, further helping to reduce contamination. So wipes really are your friends here!
Reputable Suppliers - if the price seems too good to be true… it probably is!
We recommend that you seek reputable suppliers, barbershops probably aren’t a great place to source food ingredients, especially if they’re located on Fleet Street. Ah, good ol’ Sweeney Todd!
In all seriousness, your supplier relationships and supplier management is a really key element of food safety for your business. You need to ensure that your suppliers have the same high food safety standards as you do. Things you should ask are:
- Can they provide full traceability, to the source, for their ingredients? If they can’t, then they also don’t know how safe their food supply chain is, so probably worth looking for a different supplier who is confident of their end-to-end supply processes.
- Ask them about their food safety processes and ask for a copy of their food safety management system. If they don’t have one or can’t provide any evidence that they have controls in place to ensure food safety then again, maybe it’s time to shop around!
- Check the goods yourself when they arrive at your premises. You should legally be checking any goods you receive as part of your food safety management system, checking the quality of packaging you have received it in (is it appropriate for the item?) and checking the temperatures of the products if required. Using a digital smart probe with all your supplier information already built-in will make this process super quick and provide you proof of why you have rejected a delivery.
- Doing supplier checks can be very time consuming, we totally get it! You can hire a food safety auditor to do this on your behalf. They’re an expert and will be able to tell you if your supplier is a goody or a baddy.
Foreign Bodies - please keep all body parts in the ride at all times - the same applies to your food!
Sorry that went a little dark. But foreign bodies are one of the no.1 complaint issues received in restaurants. A guest finding an extra surprise in their dish is a one-way ticket to a trip advisor review and a 1-star rating. What you can do to prevent this from happening is:
- Knives and sharp objects in a fast-paced environment inevitably lead to a cut here and there. So it’s completely essential to ensure any cuts/wounds are covered with a safety plaster. However, these do have a tendency to fall off and can end up in someone’s dinner! You should be using kitchen/food safe plasters which are normally brightly coloured so they can be easily spotted if they do come off. Some also have a small metal chip in them, so running a metal detector over a plate just before you serve it should identify a freeloading plaster on it’s way to one of your guests.
- Kitchen debris can also be an issue – if your kitchen is in a sorry state of disrepair, then bits might break off and end up in your dishes. Maintaining a structurally sound and in good condition kitchen is essential. An EHO will be looking at the standard of your kitchen as part of their inspection. So make sure you keep on top of your maintenance.
What keeps you awake at night? Paperwork and the EHO inspection!
You can hear the sound of jaws music as you see an EHO approaching your door. We know that an impending EHO inspection can feel like they’re about to suck the life out of your food business. But they’re really only there to make sure you’re doing everything safely. Vampiric tendencies are not commonplace.
One of the most common areas that food businesses fall down on is the food safety management system and confidence in management. Your site may appear clean and in order when they arrive, but if you can’t prove that you’ve been monitoring and keeping a record of your processes then they’re unlikely to give you a good rating. They need to have confidence that the standards they see today are always like this. So what can you do?
- Paper-based processes are so old school. In the days of smartphones, social media and humanoid robots, why are we still doing our food hygiene admin… on paper? It’s a necessary evil and we know you didn’t start your business to complete paperwork but you can make your life so much easier by doing it all digitally. Digital food safety can automate your temperature recording, make cleaning records completed in a jiffy and ensure your entire food safety management system is all in one place to present to your local EHO the moment they step through the door. You can even hang up some garlic so they don’t stay too long!
Date Management & Labelling - use by date isn’t a recommendation it’s a must!
Unlike our witchy friends, we do actually care about the use by dates of our items! This may seem common sense, but when you’ve got lots of stock, items can quite easily get shoved to the back of the cupboard or fridge and get forgotten about. When you’re in a rush, you won’t always check the label, presuming the item is in date – so it’s really important to put measures in place to make sure stock rotation is happening and items are always used in time. Easy ways to ensure this happens includes:
- When you get a new delivery, check the dates first and foremost – stock does get delivered with bad dates! Then, check the dates of any stock you already have, making sure you order this in your storage location with the shortest date to the front.
- Never mix items with different dates. Again, common sense but this does happen when you’re short on space.
- If date labels aren’t clear, add your own brightly coloured labels. It’s an extra step but can save you a lot of issues later!
- Make it part of your process to check stock dates at the start of every day. You can use a digital checklist for this, so you can monitor that this is being done.
Food Hygiene Training - sometimes zombies just need a little refresher.
We’re obviously only joking when we’re comparing staff to zombies. Food Hygiene training is something that your EHO will be looking for. They want to see that all your staff know about their food safety responsibilities and are confident in what they’re doing.
Everybody knows the basics of food hygiene, but sometimes we just need a little refresher so it’s at the forefront of our mind when we’re going about our busy schedule. Our tops tips for this include:
- Ensure training is up to date and is refreshed regularly. Level 1 basic food hygiene training should be refreshed yearly, with level ⅔ food hygiene training completed every 2-3 years.
- New starters should be trained straight away. A great way to introduce your new starter to your business is to get them to do their food safety training. It puts them in the right headspace from the start and ensures they don’t pick up, or bring, any bad habits into your food business.
- Do your training online! You don’t need to watch a stuffy food safety training video anymore. You can do all your food safety training online, on a mobile phone now. We offer all of our courses as part of our online training academy. It makes it super accessible and super easy… even a zombie could do it.
Temperature Control, out of control? It doesn't need to be hotter than hell but...
Last but not least is temperature control. This is a key step throughout your food safety procedures. You must ensure that your fridges and freezers are at the right temperatures at all times, checking temperatures twice daily as a minimum.
Now… this is one of the most common areas where people falsify records. They forget to do their checks and quickly make them up at the end of the day. This will give you a one way ticket to hell. Just kidding. But, it can cause a real issue if the temperatures aren’t correct and if your EHO things they’ve been falsified. Not a good situation to be in.
You should also be checking that items you are cooking are reaching the right safe temperatures. You must also keep a record of this. Again, this is a common area where records are falsified and it can be really dangerous. We recommend these steps to stop this from happening:
- Remove as much manual data recording as possible. The easiest way to make sure records are done is to make it automated. Adding digital temperature recording devices to your appliances means the temperatures will be automatically recorded 24/7 and you’ll be alerted if there’s an issue with the temperatures.
- Use smart probes to digitally store cooking temperatures. If you’ve got a digital record with a smart probe, it saves time as it already has all your food item information stored in it and what temperature the item needs to reach to be safe so all the operator needs to do is probe and click – done! It will also show you if checks aren’t being done, as they can’t be falsified with a smart probe!
Well. We think that just about covers our food hygiene horror stories! Food safety is absolutely vital and is always the one thing everyone tends to roll their eyes at. But using technology can really make it so much easier and ensure that everything is being done correctly. Go check out our digital food safety solution, it’s really fangtastic.