Follow these three best practices to protect your restaurant from a foodborne illness outbreak.

The nation recognizes National Food Education Safety Month every September to reduce the escalating number of preventable foodborne illnesses. It’s a big goal for the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion for its Healthy People 2020 (healthypeople.gov) initiative, which focuses on both the full- and fast-food service industries.

Why is this a government priority?

To protect the public from this growing health crisis. The CDC estimates roughly 48 million people contract foodborne illnesses each year, sending 128,000 to the hospital and killing 3,000.

National Environmental Health Association President Vince Radke suggests operators keep an eye on food worker behavior, farm and kitchen structure, and food and safety management to reduce foodborne illnesses and identify their source.

Here are three best practices to protect your consumers—and your brand.

  • Keep the right temperature: If you’re not tracking the temperatures in your refrigerators and freezers, consider utilizing system that tracks both temperature and humidity 24 hours a day. Wireless sensors that are currently available can send measurements at regular intervals to a Cloud-based portal. If temperature or moisture thresholds are breached, employees are alerted through text or email, giving advance notice of potential issues and enabling operators to store food in other coolers—or to throw it out before it’s inadvertently served.
  • Adhere to “use by” and “hold” times: Seems simple enough, but mistakes happen. Labeling of food items should be consistent, standardized and easy-to-read. This helps employees rotate grab-and-go items before the use-by date. Technological solutions exist that enable clear labeling (and nutrition information) that’s consistent and up to date to minimize human error, both for the employee who’s handwriting a label—and the employee who might be misreading it.
  • Track inventory: Precisely pinpoint the source of your food. When was it harvested (in the case of produce)? When did you order it and when did it arrive? RFID technology has the capability to track the movement of supply chain items—from the farm to the consumer. If a recall hits the news, you’ll know immediately by looking at your suppliers, arrival dates and more. RFID technology gives each item a digital footprint, allowing operators to make timely stock rotations.

Preparation and prevention are key. The best way to combat a potential contamination is to catch it before it happens.

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