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!
SQF code or the Safe Quality Food code is the set of rules that govern the standardization of products that are distributed to consumers by food suppliers for the sake of safety and quality management. The certification program in place is tailored towards maximized consumer protection and regulation of all related trading activities. Meeting product requirements like safety, trace and quality within cost estimates is thus ensured to enable both parties to have a fair trading platform.
This was developed in 1994 from a harmonized agreement to produce a program that when implemented would be applicable in food industry as this is one of the most important components of an economy and far more sensitive. Experts in food safety, quality management, food processing, food regulation, food retailing, agricultural production systems, Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point and food distribution came together and had a joint consensus to formulate these codes. Every participant in this industry is therefore strictly required to follow the rules and regulations.
In August 2003, the Food Marketing Institute acquired the rights to this program after which there was an establishment of the Institute Division to manage this program. The set standards meet the Global Food Safety Initiative due to the satisfaction of meeting the benchmark requirements. This has been incorporated by countries globally to govern the production and supply to industries.
The Technical Advisory Council is responsible for overseeing the necessary changes and makes reviews and recommendations. This must be in line with the contemporary requirements and expectations in the sector. Another important source of information to be used in decision making is the stakeholders who make comments on things that should be included; this makes their input very vital.
After the reviews have been made and the necessary amendments considered, there is a necessity for a date on which these changes are implemented and adjustments made. The official date for the making of amendments is the third anniversary date of a previous edition of the same document. This is usually done by the responsible panel that come together and make the amendments.
Situations may arise where an important amendment needs to be done before the three year amendment period passes. Is such a case, the amendment segment has to be included in the current edition as it may take too long to wait for a complete review cycle. This helps prevent loopholes in regulations which may lead to misuse of marketing rights.
Suppliers are required to make a prompt implementation of amendments within a period of six months of a posting of a new edition either on an official website or other media. A provision is given to all users to make a contribution by way of their views and changes that they want implemented. Address for delivery of such reviews is given to enable fast communication.
Knowledge of the SQF code is very important as it gives clear guidelines on the trade ethics that must be keenly followed by every participant in the industry. Failure to abide by these rules and regulations may call for strict legal action. The document has been scrutinized for any case of ambiguity to facilitate perfection, as it must be very comprehensive to cover every detail of this industry in an effort to cultivate healthy trading activities.
The SQF Code is a Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) benchmarked Food Safety Management System standard which is recognized worldwide. SQF certification program is managed by the Safe Quality Food Institute (SQFI), a part of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) which represents food retailers and wholesalers and has annual collective sales of over $600 billion.
The SQF Code is a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP)-based food safety and quality management system standard based on CODEX Alimentarius Commission HACCP and National Advisory Committee on Microbiological Criteria for Food (NACMCF) Principles and Guidelines. In 2012 SQF Code Edition 7 replaced SQF 2000 Code edition 6 for Food Manufacturing & Distribution and the SQF 1000 Code edition 5 which was for Primary Producers.
The Global Food Safety Initiative provides a framework for assessing the compliance of food safety management certification schemes based on ‘benchmarking’ the scheme against a model of essential requirements produced by group of food safety experts. GFSI officially announced that the SQF Code 7th Edition Level 2 had been successfully re‐benchmarked against GFSI Guidance Document Edition 6 on 15th October 2012. There are a number of benchmarked standards recognized by GFSI but SQF is the only program recognized by the GFSI that is headquartered outside of Europe.
The current edition of the SQF Code (edition 7.1 July 2013) covers all sectors of the food industry from primary production to transport and distribution.
SQF Code is current recognized by GFSI for certification to the following scopes:
- Al: Farming of Animal Products
- Bl: Farming of Plant Products
- C: Pre-Processing of Animal Products
- D: Pre-Processing of Plant Products
- El: Processing or Animal Perishable Products
- Ell: Processing of Plant Perishable Products
- Elll: Processing of Animal and Plant Perishable Products
- ElV: Processing of Ambient Stable Products
- L: Production of Biochemicals
- M: Production of Food Packaging
All Farming of Fish and Bll Farming of Grains and Pulses are to be submitted as scope extensions when 10 accredited certificates are in place.
Unlike most GFSI benchmarked standards the requirements for all organizations in the food chain are covered by a single standard, the SQF Code. Organisations do not need to comply with all of the SQF Code as it has relevant sections based on SQF food sector categories. For example, organizations in Food Sector Category 2 Growing and Harvesting of Animal Feeds need to comply with Module 2: System elements and Module 3: GMP for animal feed production and organizations in Food Sector Category 10 Dairy Food Processing need to comply with Module 2: System elements and Module 11: GMP for processing of food products.
The SQF Code covers a broad range of categories, overall there are 35 Food sector categories defined ranging from primary production to brokers and agents.
There are a range of food sector categories related to primary production and preparation including production, capture and harvesting of livestock and game animals, growing and production of fresh produce, fresh produce packhouse operations, harvest and intensive farming of fish and slaughterhouse, boning and butchery.
There are a range categories for the processing of food products and for foods manufacture based on the type of food, then there are other sector categories including transport and distribution of food products, food wholesaling and manufacture of other food related items such as dietary supplements, pet food, agricultural chemicals, animal feed and food sector packaging.
In order to achieve certification all organizations need to Module 2: SQF System Elements of the SQF code then depending on the food sector category comply with Food Safety Fundamentals defined in other relevant modules such as Good Agricultural Practices for Farming, Good Manufacturing Practices, Good Aquaculture Practices for Farming of Fish or Good Distribution Practices. Normally an organisation will need to comply with the SQF System Elements and one of the Food Safety Fundamentals modules although there are occasions when more than one will be applicable for instance when an organisation has primary production and food processing.
There are mandatory Elements in SQF Code Module 2 that must be complied with in order to achieve certification; these are summarized in the table below:
|SQF Mandatory Elements /Clause
|Management Policy 2.1.1
||Product Release 2.4.8
|Management Responsibility 2.1.2
||Validation and Effectiveness 2.5.2
|Food Safety & Quality Management System 2.1.3
||Verification and Monitoring 2.5.4
|Management Review 2.1.4
||Corrective and Preventative Action 2.5.5
|Document Control 2.2.1
||Internal Audit 2.5.7
||Product Identification 2.6.1
|Food Legislation 2.4.1*
||Product Trace 2.6.2
|Food Safety Fundamentals 2.4.2
||Product Withdrawal and Recall 2.6.3
|Food Safety Plan 2.4.3
||Food Safety Plan 2.4.3
|Food Quality Plan (at level 3) 2.4.4
||Training Program 2.9.2
|* Compliance with legislation regarding Allergens (2.8.2 Allergen Management not mandatory – may be not applicable)
In the table you will see that Food Quality Plans are included, this is because certification to the SQF code is at three levels:
- Level 1 Food Safety Fundamentals: An entry level for new and developing businesses covering only Food Safety Fundamentals and basic food safety.
- Level 2 Certified HACCP Based Food Safety Plans: Requires a food safety risk analysis, documented Food Safety Plans and compliance with Module 2 Food Safety Elements and the relevant Food Safety Fundamentals Modules.
- Level 3 Comprehensive Food Safety and Quality Management System: As per Level 2 but also requires a food quality risk analysis and documented Food Quality Plans.
Level 2 certification is benchmarked by GFSI and therefore a recognized food safety certification scheme whereas level 1 certification is not recognized by GFSI.
Level 2 certification is benchmarked by GFSI and therefore a recognized food safety certification scheme whereas level 1 certification is not recognized by GFSI.
Unlike some GFSI benchmarked standards, the SQF code and practical guidance documents are free, this means you can review the SQF Code and decide if it suits your organisation without any financial outlay. In addition to this the SQFI have Licensed Training Centers which offer SQF related training courses including:
- Implementing SQF Systems
- SQF Levels 1 & 2 – Food Safety Fundamentals and Certified HACCP Food Safety Plans
- SQF Level 3 – Comprehensive Food Safety and Quality Management Systems
- SQF Practitioner Training
- Auditing SQF Systems
Being recognized by GFSI, the SQF Code and SQF Certification are widely accepted by retailers, foodservice providers and regulatory authorities around the world. SQFI also provides online access to a list of suppliers which buyers can access and identify relevant SQF certified suppliers.
The SQF Code – A HACCP Based Supplier Assurance Code for the Food Industry is a GFSI benchmarked standard which is recognized for a wide range of industry scopes. The format of the standard is such that there is a compulsory module, Module 2: SQF System Elements and an industry sector specific module of food safety fundamentals for example in the case of food manufacturing this is Module 11: Food Safety Fundamentals – Good Manufacturing Practices for Processing of Food Products.
SQF Practitioners, Consultants and Trainers will all require a fundamental understanding of the SQF Code with consultants and trainers there is a need for more extensive knowledge in order to carry out their roles.
For an SQF Practitioner this knowledge can be gained by attending an “Implementing SQF Systems” training course through a licensed SQF Training Center, taking the online training course available at SQFI, and/or self learning by reading SQF Code (Current Edition 7.1 July 2013) and the SQF Code Guidance Documents which are available to download for free on the SQFI website. Currently there are guidance documents for Module 2: SQF System Elements and Module 11: Food Safety Fundamentals – Good Manufacturing Practices for Processing of Food Products. The Implementing SQF Systems training course is not mandatory for SQF practitioners, but is recommended by the SQFI. It is also possible to demonstrate competency in knowledge of the SQF Code by taking an Implementing SQF Systems online exam without taking the Implementing SQF Systems training course.
For SQF professionals such as Consultants and Trainers the Safe Quality Food Institute offers specific SQF training to ensure that licensed SQF Professionals are competent. There are SQFI licensed Training Centers in the United States, Australia, Canada, Ireland and Mexico which are able to provide a two-day course in “Implementing SQF Systems” or alternatively there is an interactive online course available. The nearest licensed training center can be found using a directory search on the SQFI website. Although both courses are identical in content the online course has no fixed timescale so can be taken at your leisure. Online SQF Systems training courses and the online exam are provided by Alchemy Systems, again there is link to register for online courses on the SQFI website. The cost of the Implementing SQF Systems online course is a little pricey at $900 US although the pluses are convenience and savings on expenses such as travel accommodation and food. Both courses offer guidance in preparing and implementing an SQF System, controlling hazards and developing food safety plans and preparing for the SQF audit.
As well as demonstrating an understanding of the SQF Code, SQF Auditors and SQF Consultants need to demonstrate their competency in developing Food Safety Plans and need to complete a HACCP training course. SQF Auditors also need to complete the Auditing Systems Course and receive a Certificate of Attainment.
Auditors can apply for registration on the SQFI website. In order to register as an SQF Auditor applicants will need to demonstrate competency in terms of experience, training courses completed and knowledge of products. These competencies include having to complete a Lead Auditor training course of 40 hrs duration and a HACCP Training course. Auditors also need to have over 120 hours of audit experience and have worked in the food industry for at least 5 years. Requirements are more stringent for Auditors working in high risk food sectors and auditors need to have a university degree in a discipline related to the food sector category.
Similarly consultants can register on the SQFI website. There are two levels of registration general processes and high risk processes, again the requirements are more stringent for high risk processes. Both levels require evidence of on-the-job training, HACCP training and SQF systems training plus relevant food safety work experience including the development of pre-requisite programs and in developing, validating, verifying and maintaining HACCP systems. Consultants for high risk processes are also required to have a relevant degree to the food sector category from a recognized institution.
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.
For those with knowledge of other GFSI benchmarked standards familiarization with the SQF Code should be straightforward as although the SQF Code has SQF specific requirements generally it contains what would be regarded widely recognized food safety management elements and prerequisite requirements. There are areas where the SQF Code specifically refers to training and appropriate training should be in place. Module 2: SQF System Elements describes management responsibility, the requirement for a trained SQF practitioner that the responsibility for establishing and implementing the training needs of the organization should be defined and an employee training program implemented with a Training Skills Register for all relevant personnel. When developing a Business Continuity Plan the crisis management team should be trained. Contract Service Providers should define training requirements of contract personnel. For SQF level 3 certification sensory evaluations are required to be conducted by trained personnel. Staff conducting internal audits shall be trained in internal audit procedures.
Section 2.9 prescribes Training Requirements and the need for training of personnel carrying out critical tasks related to the effective implementation and maintenance food safety management system this includes HACCP training for staff involved in developing and maintaining food safety plans. The SQF Code requires training in good agricultural practices, good aquaculture practices, or good manufacturing practices and in applying food regulatory requirements as appropriate. Specific training should be given to personnel who are involved in measures identified as part of the food safety plan and the maintenance of food safety/product conformity. Clause 2.9.3 defines the requirement for instructions, clause 2.9.5 requires that training should be in an appropriate language and there is also a requirement for refresher training.
In the modules where Food Safety Fundamentals are prescribed such as good agricultural practices, good aquaculture practices, or Good Manufacturing Practices there are also requirements for training for example in the management of pests. There should be a staff awareness program and training in the use of pest control chemicals, pesticides and other toxic chemicals should be applied by properly trained personnel and inspections for pest activity should be carried out by trained personnel. There is a requirement for pest control contractors to use only trained and qualified operators.
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
There are training requirements for cleaning and sanitation operations such that only trained personnel should handle sanitizers and detergents and also in the management of hazardous chemical and toxic substance storage facilities which should be secure and restrict access only to those personnel with formal training in the handling and use of hazardous chemicals and toxic substances.