Steps Your Restaurant Should Adopt to Avoid Foodborne Illness Liability

Foodborne illnesses can wreak havoc on restaurant businesses— bad publicity via word of mouth drives away future customers as you are drowned within a sea of liabilities and legal battles.

Such potential risks underline the emphasis paid on meticulous attention to food safety standards and prevention of outbreaks by restaurants. More than 65% of U.S’ foodborne illnesses originate in restaurants and takeaways. Foodborne diseases infect a sixth of the U.S. population every year due to which almost 3,000 people die. A huge sum is incurred by restaurants in reparations elicited from the liabilities imposed. Therefore, as a restaurant owner, it is critical that you take proactive steps to minimize the risks of any foodborne illness. Consider the following steps as baseline preparations for the same:

  • Assess thoroughly while hiring staff for your restaurant
  • Train meticulously and certify your staff after regular monitoring
  • Eliminate raw and/or undercooked food from your restaurant menu. If not, warn your customers about it
  • Try to eliminate cross-contamination with your metalware kitchen equipment
  • Encourage frequent hand-washing among your staff
  • Regularly Sanitize and disinfect

Eliminating the outbreak of a foodborne-disease is fundamentally a type of risk management. You must take every step to reduce contamination and build-up of germs in your restaurant. Arm yourself with a documented food safety program to assuage the impact of any future liabilities.

Read on to understand the Food safety steps in detail:

Training your staff to prevent an outbreak

The Center for Disease Control has all the resources available on its website regarding the elimination of foodborne outbreaks. Make sure that you as well as your staff goes through it at least once.

You can further shield your business by making your managers and staffs take up a food-safety certification course. Such courses can equip you and your employees with a better understanding of food safety since they also contain hypothetical yet real-world scenarios. Such scenarios explain the individuals about probable risks and the steps they should undertake to avoid them. These courses also include quizzes, questionnaires and tests which help takers get a better grasp of the concepts discussed. If possible, consult your local health department to seek advisories and/or guidance on foodborne-disease outbreaks-prevention and control factors-pertinent in your area.

Reduce raw & undercooked food items in your menu or warn customers about them

Although cooking food items up to their recommended temperatures is necessary, certain items, such as oysters and beef pieces retain their flavor only when left slightly cooked.

While certain restaurants completely avoid including such foods in their menus altogether, you might not be able to do so if your entire business is dependent on undercooked food items-for e.g., owning an oyster bar. If you cannot avoid serving riskily cooked foods, ensure that you list out their cooking temperature and general methodology on your menu. Additionally, you must also train your staff to remind customers of the risks involved with the undercooked food items if they are likely to order it.

Having documented food safety measures for your restaurant will immensely help you should a liability be slapped on your business.

Preventing cross-contamination

Cross-contamination occurs when germs move from one surface to another. The likelihood of cross-contamination within a restaurant setting is immense considering minimal physical distance between occupants.

Meats and canned foods are the typical culprits from which germs can easily travel to surfaces including crockery, cutlery, napkins, utensils etc.

In order to avoid cross-contamination, make sure you:

  • Separate meat from other types of food. This includes storage and preparation
  • Compartmentalize your food storage area and make sure that nonedible items are not stored there— especially chemicals like cleaning agents. Make sure the food does not touch the walls and the floor.
  • Cover the surface with plastic on which the food is to be kept and wrap the food items as well.
  • Thoroughly sanitize and disinfect the food storage area regularly.
  • Raw foods and pre-cooked foods should be stored far apart.

Food items known to trigger allergies should be kept separately as well.

Encourage your staff and visitors to thoroughly wash their hands

Handwashing with soap and running water is possibly one of the best defenses against any contamination.

Have a sink and a faucet with running water available within the restaurant premises for easy access by staff and visitors alike. Make your cooking staff wear plastic gloves while handling food as much as possible. Also distribute hand sanitizers if you can to your staff. Make hand washing a part of your training as well.

Disinfect and Sanitize

There are 3 basic levels to absolutely clean something

This involves completely removing the layer of dirt, grime and grease from the surface. Involved chemical agents to kill the germs on the surface.

This might also mean to leave the agent on for some time to disinfect. Leaving the chemical onto a surface for more than 10 minutes so as to completely kill all bacteria.

Certain measures need to be followed religiously while sanitizing and disinfecting, lest you run the risk of leaving some germs behind. Make sure you properly train your staff regarding this

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