The Top 3 Causes of Foodborne Illness

September 16, 2013
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Foodborne Illness is a serious concern that impacts the day-to-day safety and sanitation practice put forth by everyone preparing food. Though there is a great effort by agencies like ServSafe and the National Restaurant Association’s Education Foundation (NRAEF) to train foodservice personnel about the risks and liabilities associated with improper food handling, there continues to be cases where these illnesses occur. This article highlights some of the most common reasons for these illnesses (not in particular order) and offers tips for rectifying the situation:

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1. Cross Contamination Cross Contamination occurs when microorganisms are transferred from one preparation surface or food product to another. With all the hands that are involved in preparing and plating a meal in a restaurant, cross contamination can easily happen if your staff isn’t properly trained and educated on the risks associated with food handling. Between receiving food, storing food, prepping food, plating food, and serving it to your customer, there are a number of ways that cross contamination can occur. By investing in tools like color-coated cutting boards which train staff to cut different food types on different food surfaces, encouraging avid cleaning and sanitization, and proper food storage, cross contamination can be minimized. Most importantly, it takes a thorough training and understanding by your staff of the risks associated with improper food handling.

2. Personal Hygiene It’s pretty nasty to think about but poor personal hygiene is one of the top 3 most common causes for the outbreak of foodborne illness. By not washing hands after using the restroom, in between preparing different kinds of raw or uncooked foods, coughing, sneezing, scratching, or coming to work sick, there are immediate risks for transmitting microscopic germs and potentially harmful foodborne illnesses on to your customers. Installing multiple hand sinks as required by your health code is one of the best tools to emphasize the importance and requirement of hand washing in your commercial kitchen. To read more about proper hand washing read this article!

3. Time/Temperature Management In general, there are 3 main ways that people can get sick from the time/temperature equation:

a. If foods aren’t cooled properly b. If foods aren’t cooked or reheated properly c. If foods aren’t stored and held at proper temperatures.

The temperature “danger zone” is talked about in greater detail in this article  where it details the risk of bacteria growth when food is exposed to dangerous temperatures.

Food Safety is a topic that anyone preparing and serving food should take seriously (and this doesn’t exclude home cooks)! By understanding some of the basic practices and principles you can rest assured you will be free from the risk and liabilities of foodborne illnesses.

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