What Can Restaurants and Cafeterias Learn From Chipotle?

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Over the last several months, the food service world has been rocked by revelations about the unsafe food practices that caused multiple outbreaks of food-borne illness, all originating from Chipotle. Between 1990 and 2004, over 11,000 cases of food-borne illness resulted from school cafeterias; the numbers resulting from restaurants are less clear. What we do know, however, is that when people get sick from food that they’re served, the consequences can be dire. So how should the industry react? What can be done?

Maintain the Best in Food Handling Protocols

How does your kitchen handle raw meat? Vegetable washing? Do people in the kitchen regularly wash their hands and use appropriate precautions? Are foods thawed responsibly and kept in safe temperature zones?

One of the keys to maintaining a healthy and safe kitchen is knowing both what needs to be done, and who is accountable for doing it.

Encourage Both Health Inspections and Self Inspections for Food Safety

Sometimes those in the food service industry look on health inspections or self reviews regarding food safety either with irritation, or total fear. Instead, train your staff to look at inspections and reviews as an opportunity to do better. As the Chipotle situation shows, we can believe that we’ve got everything under control when there is in fact a great deal of room for improvement.

Know Your Pathogens

Your kitchen probably has first aid instructions for cuts and burns posted, right? What about the three foods most likely to cause food-borne illness? Poultry, leafy greens, and melons are all foods which have a higher than average chance of causing illness, through improper washing, improper freezing or thawing, or improper cooking. By training your staff to handle these foods with extra care, you can go a long way towards keeping your customers healthy and avoiding food-borne illness.

It’s important not to be scared about food safety. Just like handling sharp knives and kitchen tools, fear makes you more likely to mishandle things and hurt yourself or others. Ultimately, the instructions that need to be followed to keep everyone safe are fairly simple to implement. Making sure freezers stay at the right temperatures, that foods are used within appropriate time frames, and that cross-contamination is avoided will go a long way. A great inventory system helps you to keep track of what’s in your kitchen, and good food safety protocols help to make sure your food is delicious.

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