Food Service and Preparation
A. The Flow of Food
As food comes in and out of your establishment, it requires safe handling and preparation. While it may seem simple enough to receive and store food, you must ensure that all received food is stored properly and is within its safe use dates. As food enters and leaves an establishment, it must constantly be monitored for freshness and safety.
B. Purchasing, Receiving, and Storing
When purchasing food, always be sure to purchase from reputable establishments. While it may be tempting to ship food in from unapproved areas, or to go for the cheapest food option, adhering to safety guidelines while producing and storing food is pivotal. Read company statements and practices before deciding to purchase with that particular entity, and make sure safe practices are being followed.
When food is being received, it must adhere to all federal and state guidelines. In addition, you must ensure that all food is delivered at safe temperatures. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
- 41 degrees or colder for cold foods.
- 45 degrees or lower for live shellfish, milk, and eggs.
- 135 degrees or hotter for hot food.
- All frozen foods must remain frozen during delivery
No matter which type of food you are handling, it should always be promptly stored after being received. Proper food storage has been touched on, but can be restated here: cold foods should be stored at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, while hot foods must be stored at 135 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Failure to do so will likely result in the introduction of foodborne illness due to bacterial contamination.
C. Food Storage
When storing food, make sure it is properly labeled with the name and expiration date. Ensure that refrigerators and freezers are not overloaded and that the food that will expire first is nearest to the front so it will be consumed first. When you are done using any food that needs temperature-controlled storage, return it as quickly as possible to its proper place to prevent bacterial growth.
Storage Order: Wrap or cover food. Store raw meat, poultry, and seafood separately from ready-to-eat food. If raw and ready-to-eat food cannot be stored separately, store ready-to-eat food above raw meat, poultry, and seafood. This will prevent juices from raw food from dripping onto ready-to-eat food.
As mentioned above, proper food preparation is essential in delivering safe, high quality food. When preparing food, be sure to use only high-quality metal and plastic utensils, and be sure to properly clean and sanitize all preparation surfaces and utensils. When cooking, vegetables and fruits should be cooked to 135 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, while meats should be cooked to a range of 145 to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Before cooking, food should be thawed via cool water, a refrigerator, or a microwave. Any food cooked in a microwave should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
When serving food, be keenly aware of all food temperatures. Food should not be allowed to remain between 41 degrees Fahrenheit and 135 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 4 hours; food left out for more than 4 hours must be discarded. Serving already-served food is not permitted unless food is sealed and untouched. Finally, self-service stations should only be used with fresh plates. Patrons should not be permitted to reuse dirty plates or utensils because this can contaminate dishes placed out for service.
F. Time and Temperature
Controlling the time and temperature of food is the most important way to keep food safe. The “time” aspect of food safety involves such factors as food expiration dates, how long it has been out of a temperature-controlled environment, and cooking time. Because pathogens can flourish in certain conditions, controlling food storage and cooking temperature are equally important. Bacterial growth is most pronounced between 41 degrees Fahrenheit and 135 degrees Fahrenheit, so hot food should be kept well above this range and cold food should be kept in an environment below it. To ensure the food you are handling and serving is the right temperature, it should be checked with a thermometer every 4 hours. To properly check the temperature of food, be familiar with the thermometers used at your facility. Many require calibration, and all need to be cleaned and sterilized before each use. Food temperature should be double-checked for accuracy and should always be taken in the thickest part of the food.
G. High-risk Foods
All food can become contaminated in the right circumstances, but certain food categories are especially sensitive. These include, but are not limited to, the following categories:
- Meats, including chicken, beef, pork, and lamb
- Milk and cheese
- Baked potatoes
- Cooked plant-based foods such as rice and beans
- Sliced melons
- Sliced tomatoes