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Food Safety Considerations for the “New Way” of Dining

Spring is my favorite time of year, as we head out of the winter months, welcome warmer weather, and increase the daylight hours.  As such, we turnover a new leaf and welcome new life as our grass, trees, and perennials come out of dormancy. This year as the Coronavirus vaccine continues its roll out and we welcome a third vaccine onto the market this morning, perhaps this spring we are turning over a ‘new leaf’ in a much more profound way, as we see light at the end of the Coronavirus tunnel. If you work in a school, restaurant, or other on-site foodservice operation, much of your last year has been figuring out ways to serve your customer through carry-out, curbside delivery, or via at-home...

Developing Good Food Safety Habits

Good habits and habit development are something that has fascinated me for several years. If you’ve attended any the training programs or presentations that my colleagues and I have conducted through our Center for Food Safety in Child Nutrition Programs, you’ve likely heard me opine about the importance of habits and how habits are created. Many times, in foodservice operations we wonder why our staff don’t follow the food safety practices we have established in our operation. Perhaps they don’t wash their hands when they are required, perhaps they just don’t use the proper method of handwashing, or perhaps we find that they don’t complete our HACCP logs as often as our program dictates should occur. And while we can stomp our feet and say...

Getting Your Playbook for Food Safety Organized

As anyone who has ever worked in a foodservice operation knows, from the time food is received in your establishment to the time it is served to your customers, following proper food safety practices is crucial. What many don’t often think about is this time really should extend from the time the manager places their orders with their suppliers (including which purveyors you utilize), through the time the food is consumed – even if that consumption occurs off your premises and days after the original order was picked up by the guest. This is something that has certainly been highlighted by the pandemic as customers across the nation are utilizing take-out, curbside to go, and third-party delivery options more so now than ever before. Last...

Welcoming Guests Back into Your Establishments

After three long months suffering through the COVID-19 pandemic, we are finally starting to see restaurants and other foodservices across the United States begin to reopen operations.  It is likely that more and more restrictions will be lifted across the country in the next few months with operations trying to recover from losses of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Last month in our blogs, we discussed getting back to the basics in terms of employee health and hygiene, temperature controls, and cleaning and sanitizing fundamentals. This month, we expand on that discussion and merge with guidance offered by health authorities for reopening, and elaborate on a few resources available for foodservices, compliments of FoodHandler.  Several entities have started to release guidance, including the Food and Drug Administration,…

Recipe for a Positive Food Safety Culture

For the past few years, we have referred to the importance of developing a positive food safety culture within foodservice operations. The workplace culture is basically a reflection of “this is what and how we do things here”.  Manufacturing and construction companies often proudly post the number of days “accident free” as a reflection of their workplace safety culture.  In foodservice though, everyday has to be foodborne illness free – otherwise the operation may not be in business for long! So what are the elements of a positive food safety culture? In past work at Iowa State University, a doctoral student led focus groups within various types of foodservices to identify elements of a food safety culture in order to better define the pieces of…

Food Safety: Vision 2020

When we hear the words 2020, we usually think of having perfect vision.  Periodically, we go to the eye doctor to have our eyes checked to make sure our vision is good.  And, many of us have prescription lenses to recalibrate our eyes so that our vision is as near 2020 as possible. What is your vision for your food safety plan?  Is it in perfect focus?  Things change, so have you done any recalibrations to make sure that your plan still meets the changing needs of your operation?  Just like going to the eye doctor for a check-up, we need to evaluate how we are doing in the area of food safety, and make adjustments to make sure our vision is clear and that…

Keep Ready-to-Eat Foods Safe

In our first blog for February, we identified some of the risks with ready-to-eat foods. RTE does not mean risk free! We pointed out that food processors have implemented food safety plans that use good manufacturing and good handling practices (GMPs and GHPs). Foodservices often purchase RTE foods to avoid some risk in-house. In fact, many schools do not purchase raw protein foods because of risks from under cooking and cross-contamination. But there are still risks from temperature abuse due to improper holding and from contamination that occurs intentionally, or unintentionally, from employee practices or unclean equipment. So, what prevention steps can be taken? Avoiding temperature abuse means having calibrated temperature measuring devices readily available and staff knowing how to use these. It means knowing…

Communicating Food Safety Messages

In our first blog for October, we reviewed the fundamentals of effective communication. We suggested considering the framework of Who, What, When, Where, and How for crafting messages and determining the best method for delivery. In this blog, we provide some suggestions on how to effectively message about correct handwashing and glove use, as these are fundamental safe food handling practices. Correct handwashing by employees is often hit or miss. Research shows that staff know when and how to wash hands correctly, but don’t always act on that knowledge due to time availability, lack of supplies, or not being aware of the critical nature of handwashing. The message of why, when and how to wash hands in a foodservice setting needs to be conveyed. Managers…

Communicating Food Safety: The Fundamentals

It’s Fall! Here in the Midwest we know it is a new season with cooler temperatures and changing colors of leaves. Our webinar topic for September was about Communication and ways to effectively message about food safety. Dr. Susan Arendt (our former colleague at Iowa State University) did a wonderful job of explaining the importance of effective communications to achieve food safety. If you missed the live presentation, check out the archived webinar.  She reinforced the essential elements of good communication. Just for fun, we googled “communication” and my goodness, there were lots of resources. These included definitions, types, channels, and barriers. Academic studies abound along with workshops on developing skills and tips for improvement. Basically, it boils down to effective messaging – meaning the…

It’s All About Numbers: Performance Measures to Enhance Operational Effectiveness

There are a number of performance measures that can provide feedback to managers regarding effectiveness. In this first blog for May, we will discuss some of these tools and how they might be used for a foodservice. These assessments can track the effectiveness of many aspects including operational, financial, food safety, customer service, and human resources. Comparison with industry (external) or internal benchmarks can provide useful feedback on performance.   In the second blog for May, we will discuss some strategies to improve labor productivity, such as time-motion economy, ergonomics, and work simplification principles. As a side note, some research has found that the application of these techniques not only improves consistency and quantity of work, but leads to less fatigue and injury by workers...
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