Article contributed by Dhruv Kishore Bole
Welcome to final installment of our three-part series on common restaurant food safety violations and how to avoid them.
In this final installment, we will discuss another twenty commonly cited restaurant food safety violations as well as corrective measures that restaurant owners can take to avoid them. Did you miss the first two installments of our series? Read them now: Part 1 and Part 2.
Let’s get started with another twenty most common food safety violations.
Violation 31: Unclean storage shelves
Storage shelves are identified as a potential source of contamination. They have nooks and crevices that collect food waste, grease and dust particles and make cleaning difficult. Invest in storage shelves that are easy to clean, have a smoother finish and are made of food-safe materials. Keep shelves clean and in good working order, with no signs of chipping or rusting that could contaminate food items.
Violation 32: Expired food items on shelves
Another violation that health inspector notices quite often is the presence of out-of-date items on the shelves. Using out-of-date products presents a substantial health risk to customers. Discard milk or bread that has passed its expiration date. Follow specification buying (standard purchase specification) and issue those items first that are nearing their expiration date.
Violation 33: Using newspaper and cardboard to pack and store food
Newspaper paper and cardboard are often seen being used to pack or store food. This is an unhealthy practice because the ink used in newspapers contains toxic chemicals that can easily leach into food. Cardboard cartons come into contact with surfaces that are dirty and when food is stored in cardboard boxes there is a risk of contamination.
Violation 34: Wiping freshly washed dishes with towels
Bacteria levels are highest in the kitchen. Wiping dishes with a towel is not allowed in restaurants. Towels get wet during wiping, leaving wet spots on the plates and stacking wet crockeries create conditions for pests to grow. Also, avoid wiping dishes with a towel sitting in the kitchen for long. Any residue or bacteria on the towel could contaminate the freshly washed dishes. Air drying dishes is always a better option.
Violation 35: Dishwashing machine not operating at correct temperature
Monitoring the water temperatures of the dishwasher is as important as measuring the temperature of food items. Most often in restaurants, dishwashers are not set at recommended temperatures of 65-71°C, which could result in dishes not getting adequately sanitized. Check the dishwasher’s temperature daily to verify that it is operating at the recommended temperature for effective sanitization.
Violation 36: Not using sanitizer in dishwashing machine
All surfaces that come in contact with food must be both cleaned and sanitized. Washing only removes visible dirt or soil from the dishes and does not eliminate or reduce microorganisms that cause food-borne illnesses. It is essential to sanitize crockeries and cutleries after washing to eliminate or reduce pathogens to a safe level. If the restaurant uses a chemical dishwasher, make sure the dishes get sanitized with a food-grade sanitizer during the final rinse cycle.
Violation 37: Test strips not available to check sanitizer concentration
Too little sanitizer also affects sanitization. Check the sanitizer concentration in the final rinse with test strips to ensure that it is at the right concentration and strong enough to sanitize.
Violation 38: Employees not knowing correct dilution of sanitizing chemicals
The effectiveness of a sanitizer depends not only on its chemical composition but also on its application. Provide training to employees on how to dilute and use sanitizing chemicals properly. Sanitizers will be less effective if the dilution instructions are not followed. For maximum efficiency, use antibacterial sanitizer sprays containing at least 60% isopropyl alcohol to clean surfaces and sanitize hands.
Violation 39: Towel dispenser in handwashing sink found empty
No paper towel at the handwashing sink is a food safety violation. Make sure hand sinks are stocked with paper towels at all times. Other than wiping hands, Paper towels are used to turn off the faucets because doing so with bare hands can re-contaminate hands.
Violation 40: Dirty doors, handles and knobs
High-touch surfaces, such as kitchen doors, handles of door and cub boards, doorknobs, taps as well as refrigerator and microwave doors, are frequently discovered visibly dirty. These areas are home to harmful pathogens that can spread from objects to employee’s hands and contaminate food, regularly clean and disinfect surfaces high-touch surfaces to stop germs from spreading.
Violation 41: Food items stored in chemical containers
Never use chemical containers to store food items even though they are visibly clean. Chemical containers have traces of harmful chemicals that can leech onto food and contaminate it. Discard empty chemical containers and use only food-grade containers for storing food items.
Violation 42: Storing chemicals in food storage shelves
It is never a good idea to store chemicals close to food. Chemicals can get into the food if there is a spillage or leakage. To keep food safe, store chemicals safely away from food preparation, service and storage areas.
Violation 43: Dented cans found in storage shelves
Inspectors often find dented cans on store shelves. Dented cans indicate that bacteria are growing inside the can and releasing gases, causing the can to bulge. Dented cans must be thrown away, so avoid purchasing canned food items with dents in the first place.
Violation 44: Washing dishes in a dirty sink
In a restaurant kitchen, the cleanliness of the dishwashing sink is often neglected. Food particles from soaked plates and utensils are a breeding ground for food-borne disease pathogens. Hence, it is essential to clean and sanitize all compartments of the sink before beginning the dishwashing to prevent contamination of utensils.
Violation 45: Holding glasses by the rim
Servers should never use bare hands to touch the surfaces of dining utensils that come into contact with food or beverages. Fingers or thumb come should never come in contact with the inside of the plate. Hold the plate at the extreme edge of the rim, away from the food and carry dining utensils like spoons, forks, knives and cups by the waist or the handle. Instead of holding glasses by the rim, grab them by the base or the stem.
Violation 46: Food preparation sink used for handwashing
Employees are not allowed to wash their hands in food preparation sinks, according to the Food Code. Washing hands in the food preparation sink can contaminate food items. Wash hands only at handwashing sinks. Keeping that separation is essential to avoid food contamination.
Violation 47: No handwashing sign posted at the handwashing sink
Post a clearly visible handwashing sign or poster at all handwashing sinks including employee restrooms for easy identification and to remind employees of handwashing. This will promote hand hygiene and develop food safety focused behavior and practices in employees.
Violation 48: Chef not knowing the recommended minimum cooking temperature
Insufficient cooking is one of the leading causes of food poisoning. Chefs and managers must be knowledgeable about cooking temperatures and storage procedures. To kill food poisoning pathogens, it is essential to cook potentially hazardous food like meat, eggs, seafood and poultry thoroughly to a safe minimum temperature of 75 c or hotter. During cooking, the chef must regularly check the temperature of the dish using a clean and sanitized probing thermometer.
Violation 49: Documents and records not maintained
Restaurants may lose points if they do not have proper documentation. Documentation is an essential part of the inspection process because it shows food inspectors that the restaurant follows food safety practices and procedures and operational activities are consistently recorded. Record and document temperature of hot and cold units regularly and also document corrective steps that were taken during temperature fluctuation in walk-in refrigerators. Documents such as cleaning and sanitation reports, employee training records, water and food sampling reports, repairs and maintenance work orders, standard operating procedures and records of employee illnesses and injuries must be kept on file for at least two years and presented to the inspector upon request.
Violation 50: Employees not having food safety knowledge
Inspectors assess the food safety knowledge of employees during the inspection. They ask questions about time-temperature requirements for cooking, serving and storing food, thawing meat and handwashing procedures. They want to know what employees do with food when food falls into the danger zone, for how long cooked food is held and at what temperature, and how employees ensure that food is not kept longer than the recommended time. Other questions often asked are how frequently garbage is cleared and what they do with leftover food or food that is not served immediately after cooking.
Typically, Restaurants can expect inspections once a year, although high-risk food service establishments can expect three to four inspections. A typical restaurant inspection takes somewhere close to two hours. However, this varies depending on the size of the establishment. Food inspectors have legal powers. If they discover violations that pose a significant public health danger, they may impose fines or order closure of the restaurant. It will only be allowed to reopen once the restaurant resolves all violations. Some violations can be corrected right away during the inspection. Those violations that could not be corrected on the spot would result in a re-inspection of the restaurant. Critical violations are violations that can cause food contamination and foodborne illness. Noncritical violations present low risk and include issues related to the restaurant’s maintenance and cleanliness. Critical violations must be corrected within seventy-two hours and non-critical violations must be corrected within ninety days after the inspection, or as specified in the inspection report.
It is worth remembering that poor inspection scores can hurt a restaurant’s bottom line in the form of financial losses, lost customers and a negative brand image. It is relatively easy to score high grades in inspections. All that is needed is a proactive approach, i.e., planning and preparation. Restaurant operators need to be professional in managing food service business. They must meet food safety standards and follow food safety regulations. Conducting a regular series of mock inspections will help in identifying food safety issues and preparing for inspection. Without regular mock inspections, restaurant owners may struggle to ensure that they are ready when the food inspector arrives. Set up a cross-functional food safety team and conduct mock inspections before the scheduled inspection to identify and correct areas where food safety is compromised. As far as cleaning is concerned, a complete tour of the property is recommended once in a while to find grey areas that need thorough deep cleaning.
Restaurant operators are strongly encouraged to implement food safety management systems (FSMS) such as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, to ensure the safety and quality of the food. A well-implemented FSMS will help restaurant operators identify, eliminate, or reduce food safety hazards and organize their food service processes and procedures. It also makes complying with food safety laws and passing restaurant inspections a lot easier. Restaurant inspections are not to be terrified of. Both restaurant owners and food inspectors have the same goal in mind: to keep customers safe from foodborne illnesses and outbreaks. So, it is crucial to think of food inspectors as partners. Restaurant operators must collaborate with them to improve their food safety related behaviors and practices.
Health inspectors are so concerned about food safety that they wash their hands before beginning the inspection, but what about restaurant operators in food service? Isn’t it reasonable to expect restaurant owners to be concerned about food safety? We hope you’ve enjoyed this three-part article series.
Dhruv Kishore Bole is a hospitality and food safety specialist with qualifications in hotel management, food safety and quality management system. He has extensive experience spanning over twelve years in operational and training roles. His expertise centers on hospitality operation, food and beverage services and food safety. He has attended numerous workshops and conferences on customer service, leadership and food safety and quality and is certified by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India in food safety competencies. He is currently offering services in the capacity of Faculty, Food & Beverage service at State Institute of Hotel Management, Siddhpur, India. He is an empanelled trainer with Hero Mindmine and IL&FS Skills. He is a member of Quality Council of India and an instructor and proctor with ServSafe for India region.