Ask an Expert: 5 Common Safety Questions in the Food Industry

Because the food industry is so big, many people have questions about food safety. Here are some answers to a few questions that you might have:

What is the ideal refrigerator/food warming tray temperature?

Since the temperature danger zone is between 41°F and 135°F, you should keep your refrigerator at 40°F or below. If your refrigerator does not have a thermometer already installed, you must install one yourself. You should place it in an area that is likely to be the warmest. This is usually near the top. Monitor the temperature regularly to ensure the food stored inside remains safe for customers.

Warmers, like steam tables, also should keep food out of the danger zone. This means they need to be able to keep the food at 135°F or higher. It is a good idea to keep your hot holding equipment at 140°F, at least. It’s not very easy to measure the temperature of some equipment, so make sure you’re measuring the temperature of the actual food. If it gets close to 135°F, turn up the heat on the equipment.

Do you need to clean your food thermometers?

The short answer is yes! Thermometers are food-contact surfaces, which means they can easily spread pathogens if not cleaned properly. You should follow the same cleaning procedures for thermometers as with other utensils. It is a good idea to clean and sanitize your thermometers after every use, to keep them clean and ready to go. There are some exceptions, but if you’re using your thermometer to measure different foods, it’s a good idea to clean and sanitize it between uses.

When should sick workers go home?

Keeping your customers safe is the number one priority. Unfortunately, this means that workers who are sick need to be monitored to keep the food from being contaminated. There are several rules, so here are a few of them. If a food worker is vomiting, has diarrhea, or is experiencing jaundice they must be sent home. Similarly, if they are diagnosed with Norovirus, Hepatitis A, Salmonella, E. coli, or Shigella, they must be sent home. You can also restrict workers to tasks that don’t involve food if they have a sore throat with a fever or a cut on their hands. For help with determining when a worker should stay home, you can consult this Food Worker Illness Flowchart. Once a worker has been restricted or excluded, there are even more rules on when they can come back to work. It’s a good idea to contact your local health department about these rules if you are unsure. They will be happy to let you know when a food worker can return to work.

How often should you wash your hands?

Handwashing is one of the most important things in the food industry. It’s the best way to keep your customers happy and healthy. You must wash your hands after using the bathroom, or touching anything dirty. This includes bare skin, dirty equipment or utensils, any animal, and food waste. You must also wash your hands after handling raw foods and especially before working with ready-to-eat food. Another important one is to wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, eating, or drinking. Basically, if you think you should wash your hands—you probably should!

This might seem like a lot of handwashing. But it is so important to keep your hands clean. It is so easy for pathogens to transfer from your hands to food. Also, remember to change your gloves frequently as single-use gloves can become contaminated by the same surfaces your hands touch.

How do you get a food handlers permit?

This is one of the most common questions that food workers have. If you’re reading this article, chances are you know that we provide food handler training. Check out our Food Handler Training here. You can also print out some Food Safety Training Promotional Flyers to inform new food workers where to look for the training.

Kylie Molen

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in July 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

Updated: August 1, 2019 — 5:06 pm
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