Get With The Food Safety Program

September is National Food Safety Education Month, which has been celebrated for more than 15 years. According to foodsafety.gov, the goals of the month are “to reinforce food safety education and training among restaurant and foodservice workers,” and “to educate the public to handle and prepare food properly at home, where food safety is equally important—whether cooking from scratch or serving take-out meals and restaurant leftovers.” Maintaining safety in food storage is an important step toward efficacy in overall food safety.

According to the state of Alaska’s Division of Environmental Health, the most common food-service problems that relate to safety in food storage are:
Potentially hazardous foods do not meet temperature requirements
Thermometers are not provided or are not conspicuously located.
Food protection is inadequate.
Original containers are not used, or container is not properly labeled.

The most important numbers for all deli employees to remember are 41 and 135. Cold deli foods must be kept under 41 F; hot foods above 135 F (Editor’s note: About five years ago, the “danger zone” temperature for hot foods was changed by the FDA from 140 F to 135 F). Keep thermometers in all refrigerators—non-mercury thermometers can be taped inside the door of units without built-in thermometers, according to the Alaska Division of Environmental Health. To protect food, the division says wrap or cover all food stored in refrigerators or walk-in coolers.

It is important for employees to recognize the importance of labeling. If bulk ingredients are transferred to smaller containers for ease of use, they should be properly labeled so there is no confusion. Salt and sugar, for instance, could easily be confused with roach or rat poison if the containers are unlabeled. As a general rule, all chemicals should be kept away from the food storage area.

The U.S. Dairy Export Council offers important information for food safety in the deli. Cut out and post the following information from the council behind the deli counter in September as food safety reminders to your employees.

Food Storage/Hot Holding Temperatures
Area                            Temperature
Storage Freezer     < 0 F (-18 C)
Refrigerator      30 to 40 F (-1 C to 4 C)
Refrigerated Display Case          30 to 40 F (-1 C to 4 C)
Hot Holding Temperature for Cooked Meat Dishes >135 F (57 C)

When should I clean …
Food-temperature measuring devices?
A: After using or before storing, thermometers should be cleaned.

Equipment, utensils and surface that come into contact with food?
A: Every four hours or less frequently if containers of potentially hazardous food and their contents are maintained at temperatures below 40 F or above 135 F and if the containers, utensils of surfaces are cleaned when they are empty.

The surfaces of cooking equipment that come into contact with food?
A: At least every 24 hours (except hot oil cooking and filtering equipment). Cavities and door seals of microwave ovens must be cleaned at least every 24 hours. If surfaces do not come into contact with food, clean as often as necessary to precent a build-up of soil residue.

Proper Use of Chemicals
Always read and follow the label directions carefully and accurately. If chemicals are used for the wrong purpose or in excessive amounts, they can cause illness and sometimes death.
Always store chemicals and solutions properly labeled.
Always store chemicals away from food preparation, storage areas and food contact surfaces. Take care when using any chemicals.
Never spray glass cleaners directly over food. For instance, if you are cleaning the inside glass of a case, step away from the case, spray your clean cloth and then wipe the surface of the glass with the dampened cloth.