At South 40 Smokehouse, it is one of our core values to always provide you a little something extra in the form of service and food. In Louisiana, we call that Lagniappe.
Food safety and food handling is a topic to be taken very seriously. The last thing you want is to have your guests get sick on food, regardless of who provided the food, i.e. you, a guest (pot luck), or the caterer. If you are having food delivered by the caterer, or by a great cook among your guests, it is up to you to follow safe handling of the food to prevent a very serious food safety problem.
Here are some guidelines courtesy of the 2013 FDA Food Code to help you minimize a food safety problem. Always check with your local Health Department Agency for current guidelines, rules, and regulations as they are prone to change without notice.
If you are supplying servers, make sure they understand and use good personal hygiene. Correct hand washing is one of the most important ways to minimize transferring pathogens to food.
How to Wash Your Hands (The Untold story)
The most important way to keep food from becoming contaminated is also the most simple: washing your hands. It only takes about 20 seconds to do it correctly.
- Use running water as hot as you can comfortably stand.
- Apply enough soap to build up a good lather.
- Scrub hands and arms vigorously for 10-15 seconds. Clean under fingernails and between fingers.
- Rinse hands and arms thoroughly under warm water
- Dry hands and arms. Do NOT use our apron or any part of your clothing. Use a single-use paper towel or hand dryer.
Using Gloves Correctly
It takes more than just clean hands to maintain good personal hygiene. You also must use gloves correctly and care for your hands and nails.
DO NOT touch ready-to-eat food with your bare hands. Doing so can transfer pathogens from your hands to the food. Ready-to-eat food is exactly what it sounds like. It is food that can be eaten without any further reparation, washing, or cooking. For example, a washed apple, a deli meat sandwich, or Mom’s famous fried chicken she just took out of the skillet.
Wearing gloves when handling ready-to-eat food is one way to prevent contamination. You should also change them as soon as they become dirty or torn, after handling raw meat, seafood, or poultry and before handling any ready-to-eat food. Wash your hands in between. Also change your gloves before starting a new task or after an interruption such as taking a phone call.
Controlling Time and Temperature
Any type of food can be contaminated. But some types allow more bacterial growth than others. If steps are not taken to prevent it., bacteria can grow to dangerous levels. You can keep your guests safe by limiting how long food spends at incorrect temperatures. This is called time and temperature control. Food that needs time and temperature control for safety is called TCS food.
Examples: Milk and dairy products, poultry, beef, pork and lamb, baked potatoes, synthetic ingredients such as textured soy protein, sprouts, and sprout seeds, eggs, fish, shellfish, heat-treated food such as cooked rice, beans, and vegetables, sliced fruit and melons, cut tomatoes, cut leafy greens, untreated garlic-and-oil mixtures.
Temperature Danger Zone
To keep TCS food safe, you must keep it out of the temperature danger zone.
Pathogens grow well in the temperature range from 41°F to 135°F. This range is called the temperature danger zone.
- Cold food items like Cole Slaw and Potato Salad must stay below this temperature range
- Hot food items like Baked Beans and Pulled Pork must stay above this temperature range.
Hot and Cold Food Holding
You may be asking yourself, how long can I leave food in the break room and keep the food safe? That’s a great question and one you should take seriously.
When food is being held for service (i.e. on the break room table), it is important to check the temperature at least every four hours. This is done to ensure that the food temperature has not risen or fallen to a temperature that will support pathogen growth.
Hot or cold food can be held without temperature control (i.e., ice or refrigeration for cold items and chafing dishes with Sterno heat for hot items) for up to 4 hours if:
- The food is labeled with a discard time; and
- The food is served or discarded within 4 hours.
Remember this phrase, “when in doubt, throw it out.”