Attention to and reverence for food is nothing to sneeze at…literally.
By Jane Auster
Photography by Brandon Gray
At a time when terms like listeriosis, salmonella and E. coli have entered diners’ vocabulary, growers, food producers, restaurant operators and everyone else up and down the food chain have had to become more vigilant. In the past, cooks and chefs cooked, and diners ate.
Now the media are filled with news of food-borne illnesses and even deaths. And the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has gone public instituting more rigorous testing in plants producing ready-to-eat meats. Vigilance has become much more common as operators institute food safety policies and protocols.
Food safety regulation in Canada is a shared responsibility of federal, provincial and municipal governments, with responsibility for inspection and enforcement. Responsibility for foodservice inspection and enforcement resides with municipal governments. Food training is offered widely, at colleges, through local health units, and by the National Food Safety Training Program (NFSTP), developed by Restaurants Canada (formerly Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association).
#1 Food handling
- Label and date your products when you receive them or when you prepare them.
- Understand proper food storage temperatures and storage.
- Rotate your food products (first in, first out). This should be standard procedure for everything: canned goods, produce, meat, dairy.
- Constantly do checks of the food in your fridges and ensure they’re set at the proper temperature.
- Reheat foods properly.
- Ensure correct handling of fresh produce, for instance not leaving it standing in cold water.
- Consider hiring a licensed cook with responsibility for ongoing staff training.
- Make sure all staff take a food handling course.
- Make equipment handling courses mandatory, including an annual refresher so staff understand correct operation and cleaning of all equipment.
- Work the relationship with your local health unit and ask if they’ll help with training.
- Rehearse your food handling procedures. Don’t wait for a crisis to happen, be prepared to respond.
- Maintain a cleaning checklist, posted prominently for kitchen staff.
- Ensure your equipment is cleaned and sanitized.
- Work with your cleaning equipment supplier to recommend best products to use in the kitchen. A lot of suppliers will come in and train your staff.
- Stay on top of food safety issues. The CFIA (http://www.inspection.gc.ca) publishes regular updates on food-borne issues along with the latest acts and regulations. Food manufacturers publish regular bulletins on their products, and many distributors also send out food safety alerts.
- Sign up for the National Food Safety Training Program offered across the country. Visit https://restaurantscanada.org/ for more info.