How the right commercial kitchen appliances can protect customers’ health AND your reputation
According to the FSA, there are more than a million cases of food poisoning every year in the UK. Many of these cases are the result of eating food prepared in a professional kitchen, while Salmonella causes the most hospital admissions – about 2,500 per year.
The Food Safety Act makes it an offence to “render food injurious to health” or to sell food that doesn’t meet safety requirements – with severe penalties – including unlimited fines, or even imprisonment for failure to comply.
The good news is that the right commercial kitchen appliances can dramatically reduce your exposure to risk; helping to protect your customers, and your hard earned reputation.
How to prevent food poisoning in the professional kitchen
Of course, the best way to stop your customers getting food poisoning is to maintain the highest standards of personal and food hygiene. To help do this, the FSA has prepared a helpful food safety management pack.
Where hygiene standards are not met, the court may forbid you from using certain processes, premises, or equipment. You could also be banned from managing a food business and face fines or even prison.
It goes without saying that correctly cleaning and cooking food is essential to meeting food safety regulations. However, it is just as important to adopt the upmost care when it comes to chilling and avoiding cross-contamination.
And to do this, you need commercial appliances that are up to the job, and regularly maintained.
Chilling food in professional kitchens
All commercial kitchen operators know the importance of keeping food at the correct temperature to prevent harmful bacteria from growing and multiplying. However, to help avoid food poisoning it’s also essential that cooked food is cooled as quickly as possible. Indeed, if you’re chilling cooked food, you’re required by law to meet the requirements of the Food Safety Act.
But what does this mean?
Whenever cooked food is chilled or frozen, it must be in the ‘Danger Zone’ – where bacteria multiply fastest – for as little time as possible.
Current food safety guidelines recommend that cooked food should pass through the Danger Zone in no more than 90 minutes, and, subsequently be stored at 8°C or less. A temperature of below 5°C will further reduce the likelihood of bacteria multiplying and should be achieved wherever possible.
However, standard refrigeration equipment is incapable of extracting heat fast enough to comply with these guidelines. As such, specially designed rapid chilling apparatus such as a blast chiller is required by law to ensure the necessary rapid reduction of temperature is achieved.
Cross-contamination in professional kitchens
The food and catering industry in the UK has changed dramatically over the last few years in the face of changing dietary requirements, allergies, and food intolerances. Today’s commercial kitchens MUST be structured in a way to avoid cross contamination.
Only last year an Indian takeaway owner was charged with manslaughter after a customer with a severe peanut allergy died, having eaten a meal in which ingredients had been substituted with peanuts.
Cross-contamination occurs when bacteria are transferred from one food (usually raw) to another. Catering equipment such as fryers carry a particularly high risk of allergen cross contamination. It only takes a minuscule amount of a food substance to cause an allergic reaction, so in many cases, separate or twin tank fryers are recommended.
Another way to prevent harmful bacteria from spreading is to store raw and ready-to-eat food in separate fridges, freezers, and display units.
As well as the right catering equipment, it’s vital that commercial kitchens use specially designed catering detergents. Not only do these result in a consistently high quality of finish – but they also maximise the performance of your dishwasher and prevent cross-contamination.
Maintenance is critical
Effective maintenance is essential to meeting the requirements of the Food Safety Act, and to ensure your cooking, hot holding, and chilling equipment is working correctly and doesn’t let you down.
It’s a false economy to wait until something goes wrong, with the expense of calling out an engineer every time you have a problem (not to mention the risk to your reputation), far exceeding the costs of regular planned maintenance.
When it comes to the health of your customers, ignorance is not an adequate defence. And to ensure a conviction, the prosecution only has to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that food safety requirements have not been met.