7 Violations You Should Be Avoiding
Though most of us in the Northeast recognize the passage of time by seasonal changes, restaurant owners and operators are always in the potential crosshairs of a food inspection throughout the year. Though it varies by State and by County, most restaurants (with validated food permits) undergo one unannounced health inspection per year. These 'surprise' visits can produce a friendly sticker of approval, or a stigmatic stamp of concern.
A positive inspection is hardly relevant to potential customers; they expect that much of you and are unlikely to notice the static "A" on the wall. On the other hand, a poor rating can absolutely hurt your business. Make no mistake about it, customers will notice any unsatisfactory inspection report, rating, or grade that you display. With that in mind, keep these common violations (extracted from NYC.gov) on your radar if you're personally examining your handling, storage, and cooking standards in a restaurant environment. For detailed information, including official announcements, standards, and recommendations, visit the website for The United States Department of Agriculture: Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA: FSIS).
- Reheating: A hot food item that has been cooked and then refrigerated is not reheated to 165 fahrenheit or above (within two hours of potential consumption).
- Frozen Poultry: Cooking poultry (breasts, thighs, and "whole" pieces) are cooked despite being frozen or slightly thawed.
- Cold in Hot: A 'cold food item' that is held above roughly 41 degrees for an extended period of time.
- Ingredients: Safely Prepared foods with ingredients that are not cooled to 41 degrees or below within four hours of being added.
- Cracked: Dirty, cracked, unpasteurized or unsanitary eggs (frozen and powdered eggs included)
- Washing: Raw food not properly washed prior to serving (see this guide for washing tips on raw food). NOTE: Not all bacteria can be eliminated by merely 'washing', and cross-contamination is a pertinent issue on this matter
- "Employees Must...": Food workers do not exhibit proper cleanliness standards, including hand-washing after sneezing, smoking, eating, preparation of raw foods, etc.
In regard to the first 3 Critical Violations, Temperature@lert strongly
encourages strict temperature monitoring
in any restaurant environment. This is where "attention to detail" is crucial to ensuring a sound health inspection, as well as the health of your future customers. We recommend consulting with your entire kitchen staff about these issues, and make sure to highlight the importance of a sanitary (and safe!) working environment. A number of our devices are applicable for prevention of these violations, and be sure to check out our guide on Commercial Refrigeration
Simple Solutions to Prevent Violations:
- Hold a (brief) meeting once a month (or as necessary), and speak directly with all staff about food safety issues. Talk about recent inspections, past violations, and other details specific to your establishment.
- Information: Post visible signs in bathrooms, next to sinks, cutting boards and other 'danger zones' that can harbor a potential violation. Don't assume that your kitchen staff is sensitive to this issue when under a time crunch. Instead, clear signs and semi-detailed postings will help your staff incorporate proper standards into their cooking/preparation routines (if they haven't already!).
- When approached by the health inspector, separate your emotion from the situation. Take their suggestions, notes, and other ideas seriously, even if you've received an 'A' or a positive rating. Be a stickler for detail!
- For Temperature control, purchase devices that can be monitored remotely and has the ability to send alerts (whether it be in form of text, e-mail, or phone call). Even if you're off site, you should have temperature sensors in place that can detect anomalies. As an unbiased source, Temperature@lert sensors can be set for specific temperature thresholds (high and low), and can detect temperature control issues that the naked eye cannot see.
- Run a test-inspection: Every so often, it may be beneficial to run a "mock up" inspection of your restaurant. Your staff will be more keen to the actual violations and standards that are being observed, and you may uncover some potential violations yourself (better you than the inspector!). Make sure to prepare for, and anticipate a health inspection.