Top 10 Food Safety Tips for Restaurants and Commercial Kitchens

Top 10 Food Safety Tips for Restaurants and Commercial Kitchens

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 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!

Comparing BRC & IFS

Comparing BRC & IFS

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.