Whether your facility exclusively houses seniors, or you’re a full-service healthcare facility, chances are your patients already have some sort of illness compromising their immune system. That means, for you, proper food-handling safety is more than just a set of rule you’re supposed to follow, it’s crucial to the well-being of your patients. According to the CDC, one in every six people will get sick from contaminated foods, so the most important thing you can do as a leader in your industry and your facility is make sure your foodservice staff is well prepared to combat these statistics with the following food-handling safety protocols.
From making sure everyone is washing their hands before and after handling any ingredients, to making sure prepping surfaces, cutlery, and other equipment are sanitary and ready for use, proper cleanliness is the first and one of the most important safety protocols for food handling.
You should frequently check to make sure your refrigerator and freezer are kept at the ideal temperatures for keeping your food in the best shape until use. For instance, a refrigerator must be kept at 40°F or less, while a freezer should be no higher than 0°F at any time. Meanwhile, all perishable food, especially meat and poultry should be securely wrapped to prevent contamination and maintain quality (and wrapped twice with foil or plastic wrap if it is to be frozen). Also, canned foods should not be subjected to excessive heat or cold, and should be tossed out if you notice the cans are dented, rusted, or swollen looking.
Once again, cleanliness is key. No matter what you’re cooking, everyone should keep their hands and utensils clean at all times, and wash everything when changing ingredients to avoid cross contamination. If you must marinate something, do so inside a sealed dish in the refrigerator.
There are three different acceptable methods for thawing frozen foods. Anything that is thawed must be cooked immediately once it is ready. The first is to slowly thaw an item in the refrigerator, letting the higher temperature safely defrost your food. You will want to be extra cautious about juices from meat dripping onto other food while it’s thawing. This is also the only method in which the meat can be refrozen before or after it’s been cooked – all other methods require that the meat be thoroughly cooked before being refrozen. The next is to put the frozen food in an airtight plastic bag and submerge it in cold tap water, changing the water every half hour. Lastly, you can microwave frozen foods to defrost them. However, you will want to use the appropriate settings to avoid partially cooking the food, and of course cook immediately after its thawed.
Temperature is crucial when cooking certain foods, especially meat. For example, any raw pork, beef, lamb, or veal steaks, chops, or roasts should always have a 145°F internal temperature, minimum, before being removed from its heat source. Then, the meat should be allowed to rest for at least three minutes before serving. Ground meats on the other hand, including beef, pork, veal, and lamb, should reach an internal temperature of 160°F before consumption. Furthermore, any and all poultry should be brought to 165°F before consumption.
Once food has been cooked, it only has so long before leftovers must be appropriately stored away, and it must be kept in specific conditions until then. For instance, all hot prepared foods must be kept at 140°F or higher while being served, while cold foods should not exceed 40°F. No perishable food should be left out at room temperature for longer than two hours, or one hour if it’s warmer than 90°F.
If any food has been sitting out at room temperature for longer than two hours (or one if the temperature is warmer than 90°F), it must be thrown out. Otherwise, food can be stored in shallow, airtight containers, and put in a refrigerator or freezer to be used again within four days. Leftovers, no matter what it is, should be reheated to 165°F for optimum food safety.
For more tips on how to optimize your facility’s mealtimes and maximize the health of your patients, talk to our experts at Vision Software today! Call 629.777.8989, or fill in the free consultation form in the sidebar, to learn more about how our software can positively impact the lives of the patients and visitors you service every day.