Food Handling Safety, and Why You Shouldn’t Trust Anybody.
I used to work at a restaurant, but long before that I took a food handling safety course. Some basics were common sense, and some basics were ‘oh yeah, that makes sense’, like putting raw food on the bottom shelf, or if you cut yourself you have to throw out the whole fricken tomato.
But I noticed that when I worked at the restaurant some of these basics were not forgotten, but ignored. The chef often wiped a plate with her finger to give the dish that clean look, but would then lick her finger, and not wash it. No one wore hair nets until someone (me) got a hair in a salad and then everyone had to wear a hair net.
There is also a common rule in a professional kitchen that everything needs to be labelled. The label needs to contain not only what it is but also when it arrived in the kitchen, so that the staff are aware if and when it has or will expire. Apparently, one day, the food inspector came in, saw the eggs, saw the eggs weren’t labelled, and then promptly told the owner/head chef, the eggs weren’t labelled. Now, I am pretty sure that they meant the expiry date was not on the label for the eggs, but now the clock in the kitchen has a label in the centre of it reading ‘clock’ because not only are most kitchen professional not happy to have pointed out that they have been ignoring food handling guide lines but are also very petty when it is pointed out.
One of my favourite shows is called ’24 Hours to Hell’, which proves this point dramatically! Chef Gordon Ramsey takes a big transportable kitchen around the USA, finding restaurants who are frankly disgusting, and should be closing at any moment, and then the show has 24 hours to turn the whole thing around. If you were to watch the show you will see kitchen staff directly licking plates, rats and bugs in the kitchen, there is mould everywhere, nothing has been cleaned for years (or according to the owners, not since last week), spoiled food, and spoiled owners/kitchen staff/servers and just sad people. It is stomach turning and really makes me rethink eating out.
Apparently, in the USA every year food born illnesses effect 76 million people. There are three major methods of contamination; biological, chemical, or physical. More than 90% of all food borne illnesses are caused by bacteria. Problems occur in the processing and preparation stages of food handling from; food preparers not washing their hands or not changing their gloves, to cross contamination of cooked and raw foods crossing paths. Physically, there can be foreign material that can end up in food, usually as a result of an accident, such as something happening in a food production plant or something like; dropping a pumpkin pie face down on the floor and then serving it to my mother which caused an illness and an unforgettable story that will last with me for the rest of my days.
In Canada we have the Canadian Food Inspection Agency that oversees food safety in regards to production and processing. So, if you ever have a question or concern about your food supply and whether it is safe, that is where you need to direct it.
The one thing that we have started to do in our kitchen is to use a thermometer. Using a kitchen thermometer enables us to be able to determine the internal temperature of our cooking process which enables us to make sure that the food has been properly cooked. For example, ground meats should be 160F as well as ground pork, as well as egg casseroles whereas poultry should be 180F, recommended.
Also, it is important to refrigerate food in order to prevent food borne illnesses by placing your food in the refrigerator and not leaving it at room temperature for more than 2 hours. Keeping an ice pack in your lunch bag helps to maintain food for awhile but if available it is really good to place your lunch in a refrigerator when at work. You can also use frozen water bottles in your lunch pack, or frozen juice containers to help continue to cool your food throughout the day if you do not have a refrigerator at work available to you.
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