What is a Food Safety Consultant and Why Does Your Restaurant Need One
As a restaurant owner, you need to abide by many food safety standards. This is where a food safety consultant comes in. Here’s why you need one.
Do you run a restaurant or a business with a kitchen? Does it feel overwhelming when you think about all the balls you juggle every day?
Most of the time, a kitchen manager handles everything from kitchen food safety to personnel changes and sometimes the dining room, too. If you feel stretched thin, read this article to find the help you need.
Below, we’ll tell you all about what a food safety consultant is and why you need one. When you’re ready to make the leap, use our quick tips for choosing a consultant that’s right for your kitchen.
What Is a Food Safety Consultant?
Food safety consultants give you confidence that your kitchen complies with all regulations. They are an outside pair of eyes to keep you and your kitchen staff on track.
Protecting your customers from getting sick is of the utmost importance. With guidelines that change all the time, having someone else around to work alongside you on this project is a must.
Why Does Your Restaurant Need One?
You may think that everyone knows how to follow basic safety rules like wearing gloves or avoiding cross contamination. But sanitizing daily and checking storage temperatures isn’t everyone’s first priority.
In fact, some employees choose not to read the instructions or cut corners to speed things up. This can lead to failed inspections, or worse, sick clientele.
While you want to have speedy service, you also need to avoid these problems. When you hire a consultant, it’s a lot easier to meet both goals.
Here are three big reasons your restaurant needs a food safety consultant.
There are regulations to follow in any kitchen. No matter which food safety management system you follow, you want to maintain your certifications. Here are some standard food safety certifications:
- BRC certification (most popular) – British Retail Consortium
- SQF from Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)
- FSSC 22000 also from GFSI
You have to follow many guidelines for legal compliance and certification. Staying on top of everything requires a lot of meticulous list-keeping.
If that’s not you, a food safety consultant can help you stay in compliance. Let someone else make the lists and double check them. Having another person on your team to keep track of the nit-picky items is an asset you can’t afford to work without.
When you hire a food safety consultant, did you know you hire extra support? They are they to help organize and manage the system, but they also give advice.
The support an independent consultant gives is invaluable. Your consultant should be able to help with anything from kitchen emergencies to encouragement and recommendations.
While it’s hard to quantify this type of help, the results you see from its implementation won’t be nebulous.
The regulations for these and other organizations or laws change often. It’s hard to keep up with all the requirements.
A food safety consultant keeps up with all the guidelines and assesses your specific needs. They’ll help you change processes or procedures when the rule changes, so that you don’t miss a beat.
You can achieve compliance with the help of a consultant, even with ceaseless updates to the regulations.
How to Choose a Food Safety Consultant
That’s great, you’re convinced that a consultant is important for your restaurant. But if you want to hire one, where do you start?
How do you know that the one you’ve picked out is the right fit for your business? Here are a few questions to ask to make sure you’ve made the best decision.
Do They Have Outside Resources?
Food safety consultants should have access to outside resources because of the field they’re in. Even if they don’t know the answer to a question you have, they should be able to find it within their network of experts and colleagues.
Are They Too Cheap?
Don’t rule out an expensive consultant. Most often, you get what you pay for, and having to pay a little more for quality service is worth it.
Ask all the questions before you go with someone who charges less than their competitors. There’s doubtless a reason they can’t charge the same prices as other consultants you looked at.
Trust your instincts, and triple check before you hire the cheapest option.
Do They Understand the Regulations?
Choosing someone who has memorized the rules won’t help you if they don’t understand them. You need a consultant who has experience applying the rules to the real world.
Being able to recite the rulebook doesn’t mean they can interpret it. Food safety consultants are like the judges in the courtrooms of the kitchen. Instead of quoting it, they have to be able to interpret the law.
Ask your prospective consultant if they have experience in the kitchen. If not, give them some real-life scenarios you have encountered in your own kitchen to respond to. This way you can make sure they know how to handle a difficult situation.
Abiding By Safety Standards
Keeping up with regulations doesn’t have to be a headache you’re used to. A food safety consultant can help you be compliant, keep up with changes, and find the extra support you need.
To choose a consultant, ask some basic questions about their experience, resources, and pricing. Soon your restaurant will be a slick machine, and you will be able to focus on other aspects of the kitchen.
With over 20 years of expertise, TCI can help you achieve these goals. For more about food safety management systems developed around your needs, select a consultant package on our website.
Top 10 Food Safety Tips for Restaurants and Commercial Kitchens
Food safety is one of the most important aspects of running a restaurant. Read on to learn about the top ten food safety tips.
You’re surely aware of salmonella, E. coli, listeria, and norovirus — but did you know that there are over 250 food borne illnesses? Each year, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 million people get sick from a food borne illness. Of those, some 128,000 must be hospitalized, and 3,000 die as a result of getting sick from poor food handling practices.
If you supervise a restaurant or commercial kitchen, it is absolutely imperative to understand food safety. We’ve compiled a list of food safety tips to get you started.
Hand It to Safety
One of the most important tips to help keep your commercial kitchen safe is good, old fashioned hand washing. “Employees Must Wash Hands” is more than just a mandatory poster on the kitchen, bathroom, or break room wall.
Make hand washing an iron-clad rule. Train your employees in proper hand washing procedures.. And administer strict and swift consequences for those who don’t follow this rule.
Make Gloves Mandatory
In addition, your workers should be trained in the proper use of gloves. Whenever someone is preparing food in a commercial kitchen, they should be wearing gloves. Not only that, but they should change gloves frequently. New gloves should be worn each time the cooks switch from raw to cooked food, for example, and vice versa.
Far too many food service workers see gloves as magical shields that somehow render germs powerless, no matter what that person does with their hands. If you see staff members wearing gloves while scratching or touching their skin, and then handling food without changing the gloves, stop them. Retrain your staff as necessary.
Clean and Sanitize Equipment Daily
Of course, the equipment in the kitchen must also be cleaned and sanitized not just on the regular, but properly. Your https://www.foodsafetynews.com/restaurant-inspections-in-your-area/ may have specific requirements surrounding food sanitation, so make sure to ask.
In general, you won’t go wrong with hot, soapy water and/or commercial bleach. Wash down all dishes, prep containers, pots and pans, utensils, cooking surfaces, cutting boards, and countertops. Sweep and mop not just the kitchen proper, but also the coolers, freezers, and storage areas.
Set a Regular Deep Cleaning Schedule
It’s also a smart idea to set a firm schedule of how often the entire kitchen should be scrubbed down and cleaned out. Asking your employees to take care of heavy-duty cleaning “as needed” or “when they have down time” is asking for a dirty kitchen that will fail a health inspection.
During a deep clean, tackle the ovens, grills, fryers, and appliances. Don’t forget grease traps, range hoods, fans and vents, lighting fixtures, and the like.
Avoid Cross Contamination When Storing Food…
Raw meat and poultry should be kept entirely separate from their cooked counterparts. In addition, keep them away from vegetables, prepared sauces, rolls or bread, and any other foodstuff.
This practice ought to be a no-brainer. Anyone who’s ever watched even one episode of “Kitchen Nightmares” knows that raw chicken can’t be kept in a bucket with cooked steak. But you’d be surprised how many shortcuts busy kitchen staff will resort to!
The same policy of strict separation goes for knives, cutting boards, utensils, mixing and prep bowls, trays, storage containers, and thermometers. You must have separate prep and cooking tools and supplies for raw poultry, raw meat, raw seafood, cooked proteins, vegetables, and other foods.
Make Proper Food Storage a Priority
Do you understand how different types of food — dry vs. wet, hot vs. cold, vegetables vs. meats — must be stored? Do your employees? You can be certain that the health inspector does, so you should too.
Several factors must be taken into consideration when storing food. Ventilation is important, as is temperature. Container sizes, how those containers are sealed, and how food is rotated in and out of containers and storage areas are all crucial to safety in commercial kitchens.
Never store food directly on the floor, even if it’s in a box or bin. Never store meat on upper refrigerator or walk-in shelves, where it could potentially drip onto other ingredients underneath.
Make sure your employees understand and follow all protocols related to storage.
Follow the Rule of First In, First Out
Want to make certain that your ingredients are as safe as possible, while minimizing the amount of food you need to discard? Be strict about following a “FIFO” policy. FIFO stands for “First In, First Out.” It means that the oldest supplies should be used up first.
There are two super simple ways to accomplish this.
One is to label every box, bag, package or container with the date it arrived in your kitchen. Then, place it behind any existing stock of that same product or supply in the walk-in or on the shelves. That makes it easier for busy chefs to grab the oldest product first.
While FIFO might not be quite as exciting as YOLO or even BOGO, it will help your restaurant or commercial kitchen run more safely and efficiently.
Make Sure Storage Temperatures Are Right
According to the Food and Drug Administration, food should be keep at 41°F or below, while hot food needs to reach 135°F or above.
This is to ensure that harmful bacteria never gets a chance to grow. Keep a thermometer in the refrigerator as well as in the freezer. The refrigerator should operate at 40°F or below, while the freezer temperature must be 0°F or below.
Cook All Food to Temp, Too
Similarly, cooking food to the proper temperature will also prevent food borne illness (as well as dishes returned to the kitchen for being undercooked!). Chicken must be cooked to 165°F. Ground beef, veal, lamb, and pork should reach 160°F. Train your cooks to use thermometers often, rather than relying on the look or feel of a dish to know if it’s thoroughly cooked.
Food Safety Tips Are Not Enough
We’ll be honest: these food safety tips are fairly elementary. Most home cooks understand them, and most of your workers probably know the basics of keeping things clean and sanitary, too.
In order to truly feel confident that your commercial kitchen or restaurant is in compliance with all necessary regulations and guidelines, contact us. We’ll be able to better assess your needs, and help you achieve compliance, by knowing more about your kitchen!
The kind of foodstuff that people eat on a daily basis must be keenly monitored and evaluated to be fit for consumption. Manufactured goods may not be fit for human consumption if some manufacturers do not produce products of required quality thus posing a risk to consumers. BRC food safety is a set of rules that govern the manufacture and packaging of products in a consumer environmentally friendly manner to enable sustainability of all foods.
Companies that are specialized in the production of foodstuffs are monitored to ensure that their food production meets requirements laid down to govern the manufacturers and the retailers in their line of work. The standard was introduced in 1998 and has now been adopted all over the world to thousands of locations in many countries across the globe. This has an important role to play in the economy as it protects the rights of consumers globally.
The British Retail Consortium is a leading trade association among many others in the United Kingdom that is concerned with representation of retailers ranging from small business to large chain stores, independently owned stores and larger departmental stores. This makes up around 80 percent of general retail trade in the United Kingdom. This consortium was formed in 1992 out of a merger between Association of Retailers and Retail consortium.
Facilitation of standardization of safety, quality, fulfillment of legal obligations and operational criteria are all provided in the best interest of consumers whose health must be considered and protected. The first edition was concerned with protocol for food suppliers and technical standards to be observed in manufacturing, packaging and distribution of products. This revolutionized the perception of customers and created awareness of their rights to high quality products and services.
There are several functions that are performed by the BRC and they should be known to consumers for the sake of general interest or for seeking legal action in any case there is a violation of the laid down rules and regulations. One important role is the voicing of rights of the retail industry to the government to ensure they work under the most favorable conditions. They therefore act as the bridge between the government and the retail industry.
Product areas including foods, consumer products and packaging have standards that have been set and must be complied with. Inspectors ensure that any exported products to the United Kingdom have met these requirements before being allowed in. Foodstuffs delivered to supermarkets are also certified before they are displayed on the shelves.
Another area of interest for the BRC is the storage and distribution of foodstuff which must also be done to the standards in order to ensure that no consumer is supplied with stale or damaged products. The interests of this industry are majorly based on price inflation, legislation, value added tax, confidence of consumers and sales. Each of these aspects and factors affecting the industry are considered.
BRC food safety is an important certification for all manufacturers in the foodstuff industry who are intending to meet certain standards. There are online guides that can be acquired and can be employed to comply to the rules and regulations. Strict penalty could be exacted on those companies which ignore these standards.
As food safety certification is becoming a prerequisite for food businesses throughout the world, one of the first decisions is which food safety standard should I choose? In the first place it is recommended to choose as food safety scheme that is widely recognized by selecting a food safety management standard that has been ‘benchmarked’ by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).
Two such GFSI approved schemes which are recognized worldwide and particularly popular in Europe are IFS Food Standard for auditing quality and food safety of food products and BRC Global Standard for Food Safety. IFS Food is a standard for auditing food safety and quality of processes and products of food manufacturers. BRC Global Standard for Food Safety sets out the requirements for food companies involved in processing of foods and preparation of primary products.
Both the IFS and BRC standards are retailer driven and strangely enough both IFS Food and the BRC Standard current editions are issue or version 6. The BRC Standard for Food Safety was originally published in 1998 the current version was published in July 2011. IFS Food was launched in 2003 and is current version 6 was published in January 2012. The BRC standard has nearly 14,000 certified sites in over 100 countries around the world. IFS Food issued over 11,000 certificates in 90 different countries in 2011.
Both IFS and BRC identify 10 key elements where failure to comply would result in a failed audit and non-certification. BRC refers to these as ‘Fundamental’ requirements whilst IFS has specific requirements which are designated as ‘Knock Out’ requirements (KO). Not surprisingly there are several common Fundamental of Knock Out clauses to both the BRC and IFS standards. These are senior management responsibility/commitment, food safety plan/monitoring CCP’s, internal audits, corrective action and traceability. BRC clause housekeeping and hygiene is a fundamental requirement whilst IFS differs in that personnel hygiene is a knock out clause.
There are a few differences, IFS lists recipe compliance as a knock out whereas, BRC specifies Control of operations as a fundamental requirement which covers recipes but is more demanding in its requirements for specified processing and operation conditions such as time and temperature for cooking. Of the other fundamental BRC requirements there is training, management of allergens, layout flow and segregation. In IFS Food the other knock out requirements are raw material specifications are foreign material management and procedures for withdrawal and recall.
The BRC Standard for Food Safety Issue 7 requirements are split into seven sections, IFS Food requirements are split into six sections.
Section 1 in both the BRC and IFS standard covers requirements of the Senior Management in terms of commitment, responsibility, policies, organisation structure and review. IFS Food places a little more emphasis on policies which as well as the obvious food safety and quality also require Senior Management to adopt environmental, sustainability, ethics and personnel responsibilities.
Both BRC and IFS require implementation of a HACCP system based on Codex Alimentarius principles in section 2. BRC has a requirement for specific prerequisite programmes in this section. IFS Food specifies Quality and Food Safety Management System requirements in section 2 whereas BRC Issue 7 section 3 specifies the minimum requirements for a documented Food Safety and Quality Management System. Section 3 of BRC also includes requirements for internal audits, supplier & material controls, corrective action, control of non-conforming product traceability, complaint handling, management of incidents and recalls. IFS section 3 covers Resource Management including human resources, personnel hygiene, protective clothing, contractors and visitors, procedures for infectious diseases, training and staff facilities.
Section 4 of both BRC and IFS prescribe expected site standards for ‘good manufacturing practices’ such as cleaning, maintenance, waste control, pest control, storage, transport and requirements for satisfactory factory design & construction standards, plant layout and product flow. BRC section 4 is titled Site Standards also includes hygiene & housekeeping requirements which IFS mainly covers in section 3. IFS section 4 is titled Planning and Production Process which as well as the good manufacturing practices mentioned has requirements for contract agreement, specifications, product development, purchasing, traceability and allergen management.
BRC Section 5 Product Control prescribes expected product controls including product development, packaging, inspection product release and management of allergens. Section 5 of IFS Food, Measurements, Analysis, Improvements covers requirements for internal audits, inspections process validation, calibration, quantity checking, product analysis, product quarantine, product release, management of complaints, management of incidents, product recall, management of non-conformities and corrective actions.
Section 6 of IFS covers Food defense and external inspections with requirements for defense assessment, site security, security and external inspections. BRC Section 6 prescribes process control requirements including control of operations, quantity control and calibration of instruments.
Section7 of BRC is titled Personnel has requirements for personal hygiene, protective clothing, medical screening and training.
Overall both BRC and IFS Food Safety standards are well established in the UK and Europe being driven over the years by major retailers and both are extremely creditable given that they are benchmarked by GFSI. There is a difference in the auditing reporting in that an IFS Food Audit result is reported as a total score percentage with greater than 95 % being the top level where as in a BRC audit the top grade is A. In addition to this BRC has an option of unannounced audits which are conducted at a random date as opposed to a pre-arranged audit. This scheme is viewed as giving a better indication of the day to day standards operated by the organisation. Sites successfully certified against the unannounced audit programme can achieve grade A+, the highest grade awarded by BRC.
Ultimately certification to either the IFS Food Standard or the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety will provide credibility and emphasises that an organisation is serious about food safety and quality. As part of the process of choosing which certification would be of most benefit it is a good idea to consult key customers and take their preferences into account.
BRC Certification is the most popular food safety certification worldwide. There are many reasons for this including the fact that the two main BRC Standards BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 7 and BRC/IOP Global Standard for Packaging and Packaging Materials Issue 4 are GFSI Approved Standards. The Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) carries out a benchmarking process in which a food safety certification scheme is compared to the GFSI Guidance Document. All of the major food safety certification schemes are benchmarked and approved by GFSI.
First introduced in 1998, the BRC Global Standards for Food Safety was the first Standard to be recognised as meeting the GFSI benchmark in 2000. The current edition of the BRC Standards BRC Global Standard for Food Safety is Issue 7 which was published in July 2011. The standard covers food safety management in food manufacturing and packing. The BRC Food Standard was one of the original GFSI Benchmarked schemes and is used around the world with certificates in over 100 countries and has Currently there are over 15,000 sites in 100 countries around the world that have BRC Food Certification.
BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 7 is approved by GFSI for the following scopes:
- D Pre Processing Handling of Plant Products
- EI Processing of Animal Perishable Products
- EII Processing of Plant Perishable Products
- EIII Processing of Animal and Plant Perishable Products (Mixed Products)
- EIV Processing of Ambient Stable Products
- L Production of (Bio) Chemicals
BRC first published the Packaging Standard in 2002. BRC/IOP Global Standard for Packaging and Packaging Materials Issue 4 is the first packaging standard to be benchmarked by GFSI. The standard covers the assurance and hygienic manufacture of packaging materials. Currently there are over 2,000 sites around the world that have BRC Packaging Certification.
BRC/IOP Global Standard for Packaging and Packaging Materials Issue 4 is approved by GFSI for the following scope: M Production of Food Packaging
BRC Global Standard for Food Safety Issue 7 is approved by GFSI for the following scopes:
- 1. Senior Management Commitment
- 2. The Food Safety Plan – HACCP
- 3. Food Safety And Quality Management System
- 4. Site Standards
- 5. Product Control
- 6. Process Control
- 7. Personnel
Suppliers are required to comply with all relevant clauses of the standard; however there are clauses which are regarded as ‘Fundamental Requirements’. Non-compliance with these clauses results in failure to gain BRC certification:
- Senior Management Commitment Clause 1.1
- The Food Safety Plan – HACCP Clause 2
- Internal Audits Clause 3.4
- Corrective Action Clause 3.7
- Traceability Clause 3.9
- Layout, Product Flow and Segregation Clause 4.3
- Housekeeping and Hygiene Clause 4.11
- Management of Allergens Clause 5.2
- Control of Operations Clause 6.1
- Training Clause 7.1
The process of gaining BRC certification will vary with the size and complexity of an organisation and the extent to which food safety system have been developed.
The steps to BRC Food Certification (a similar path can be applied to BRC Packaging certification) are as follows:
Step 1 Obtain a Copy of the BRC Standard – You can purchase and download a copy of the standard from https://www.tsoshop.co.uk/brcbookshop.
Step 2 Training – You will need at least one person who has a good knowledge of the BRC Standard. This can be self taught or there are training courses offered including BRC Approved Partner Training, more details of which can be found at https://www.brctrainingacademy.com
Step 3 Gap Analysis – You will need to carry out a gap analysis to identify where your current food safety management system fails to meet the requirement of the BRC standard. BRC Global Standards Self-Assessment Tool which is provided by BRC as one of their free Guidance Documents here
Step 4 Corrective Actions – Your gap analysis will identify corrective actions that are required in order to meet the requirements of the standard and progress to BRC certification. Quite often these actions will need to be reviewed by Senior Management as financial and human resources could be needed in order to progress. This stage can take quite a lot of time and resource depending on the standards of the facility and the extent of the food safety management system.
Step 5 Choose a Certification Body – You will now need to choose a certification body, you may be aware of local certification body or you can use the BRC Global Standards Directory https://www.brcdirectory.com to find a suitable certification body. There is sometimes some confusion between Accreditation Bodies and Certification Bodies: Accreditation Bodies approve Certification Bodies to ISO/IEC Guide 65 (succeeded by ISO/IEC 17065) Conformity assessment – Requirements for bodies certifying products, processes and services to ensure that certification bodies operate to acceptable standards. Certification Bodies in turn assess Food Safety Management Systems and Issue BRC Certificates.
Step 6 Agree Scope of the Audit – The scope of the audit should be agreed with the certification body including manufacturing facilities and products.
Step 7 Agree a Contract – The certification body should provide a proposal for the certification process and provide a contract.
Step 8 Audit Planning – A plan for the audit should be prepared with dates and schedule for the audit days. A certification audit normally takes two days but may be longer depending on the size and complexity of the operation.
Step 9 On-site Audit – The On-site audit will consist of a programme that includes the following:
- Opening Meeting – Introductions and confirmation of schedule
- Document Review – HACCP & Quality Management System
- Traceability Challenge
- Production Facility Inspection
- Closing Meeting – Review of findings and summary of non-conformances
Step 10 Non-conformities and Corrective Action – At the end of the on-site audit a summary of the non-conformances found are presented. The organisation then has 28 days to confirm and present evidence of corrective actions.
Step 11 Grading of the Audit & Certification – The Final Audit Report and Certificate should be provided by the certification body within 42 Days of the on-site audit. The audit is graded based on the number and type of non-conformances found. The grading system is A to C for a passed audit. For established organizations a + is added if an unannounced audit is passed.
The audit is graded as follows:
- Grade A up to 10 Minor non-conformances
- Grade B/ 11 to 20 Minor non-conformances
- Grade C 21 to 30 Minor non-conformances or 1 Major non-conformance and 11 to 30 Minor non-conformances or 2 Major non-conformances and 1 to 20 Minor non-conformances
- Production Facility Inspection
- Closing Meeting – Review of findings and summary of non-conformances
A Critical Non-Conformity or a Major Non-Conformity against a Fundamental Clause will result in on-certification and a re-audit at a later stage. Certification is also not granted if there is more than 1 Critical non-conformance, more than 3 Major non-conformances, 2 Major non-conformances and more than 20 Minor non-conformances or more than 31 Minor non-conformances.
Once you have achieved BRC certification there may be opportunities to expand your business, certified organizations are listed in the BRC Global Standards Directory https://www.brcdirectory.com where buyers can access and view the details of your organisation and extent of your certification.