It’s an ugly topic, but if we want beautiful dining experiences, we have to address it. A common cause of food borne illness is cross-contamination, which requires effort to combat. Cross-contamination is the spreading of pathogens from one surface to another, whether from foods, containers, hands, or the very air breathed by a sick employee. We’re at war with cross-contamination, and confront it on every side. Unfortunately, our enemy is everything within and about your restaurant environment.
Sensitive topics like bathing, doing laundry, washing hair, shaving, keeping jewelry from dangling, cleaning nails, covering wounds, refraining from scratching or rubbing eyes, and staying home when contagious must be addressed directly when food is being served to the public. OSHA will provide the helpful posters, but it’s up to the owner or manager to enforce them.
Proper hand washing
There’s a proper way to safely wash your hands. First, remove ALL your jewelry. Next, rinse your hands with the hottest water you can tolerate. Lather your hands, making sure to scrub between fingers, the entire length of the finger, and underneath nails. It’s best to have short nails, and nail polish needs to be lightly colored so it won’t disguise dirt under the nails. If they’re longer, invest in a good nail brush and use it regularly, cleaning it after use. Nail brushes, like tooth brushes, are personal property and can cause even greater damage if they aren’t respected in that way. The “scrubbing time” guideline is a minimum of 15 seconds, or the time it takes to sing The Alphabet Song. (Working with food and the public. Sing it twice.) Then rinse, dry with a one-use paper towel or electric hand-dryer, and sanitize. If in a restroom, it’s always a good idea to use a paper towel when opening the door. Wash hands every time touching something that could contaminate them. Become a compulsive hand-washer.
Use Separate Containers
Don’t combine raw and cooked items. Don’t “top off” containers by placing old food on top of new food. Empty the old container, and then use the new container . Wash and sanitize the old container after emptying it. Use separate storage. For example, when storing in a refrigerator or cooler, fruits and vegetables go on the top shelf, cooked meats and cheeses on the middle shelf, and raw meats, which can drip, go on the bottom shelf. Avoid creating a situation where raw meats are placed above any other food. (Think about the way your prep line is set up. Do you reach across anything with raw meat in your hand?
Clean and Sanitize All Work Surfaces
Constantly! New people and items are being introduced to your environment. Keep sanitizer water and clean cloths handy at all times, and familiarize your staff with their use.