Top 10 tips on food safety in pubs

By Pat Perry , 22-Jan-2013
Last updated the 01-Feb-2013 at 11:15 GMT

Related topics: Business Support

Food poisoning incidents can be very serious for pubs and have disastrous consequences, resulting in loss of trade or even closure. Here are 10 top tips for ensuring food safety in pubs.

Following best practice in food safety is absolutely critical for retailers

Following best practice in food safety is absolutely critical for retailers

1. Clean and disinfect all hand contact and food contact surfaces as part of a comprehensive cleaning schedule

Ensure your cleaning, particularly where there is a requirement to disinfect an area, includes a two stage cleaning process. It is firstly important to remove any physical materials and gross contamination from a surface which should be achieved by the first stage clean. Materials including blood and food debris should be removed using a sanitiser.
Afterwards, a second application of sanitiser should be applied to the surface (allowing a suitable contact time) to destroy any residual bacteria. The clean surface should finally be wiped with clean paper towels to leave it ready for use. Ensure the sanitiser is effective and complies with British Standards.

2. Clean as you go

Whilst it is sometimes necessary to make a mess during busy trading periods, there are no excuses for excessive dirt and untidiness. By training yourself and staff to adopt a clean as you go policy, it will mean that there is less to clean and the end of busy periods, which will make final cleaning tasks less onerous.
Cleaning as you go can also reduce the risks of accidents by removing contaminants and tidying items immediately rather than waiting until the end of the day.

3. Cook food to the correct core temperature to reduce bacteria to a safe level

Cooking is one of the most important critical controls for pubs which cook and serve both hot and cold food. Whilst this is understood for the vast majority of foods, there has been a growing trend in some of the trendier pubs to seek to meet customer demands for rare (undercooked) burgers. In light of this trend, Westminster City Council went public on possible actions against rogue caterers who decide to meet their customer demands for rare (and potentially dangerous) minced beef products rather than requirements of the Regulations to serve safe food. If you serve undercooked burgers - think again.

4. Personal hygiene – maintain high standards at all times

Food handlers must maintain high standards of personal hygiene at all times when handling and preparing food. Food handlers must make sure they are clean and presentable. Hands must be washed on entry into the kitchen and at times when hands are likely to have become dirty and contaminated. Taking time to wash hands effectively has been shown to reduce the risks of infection from common illnesses (such as colds) and will prevent the risk of spreading bacteria through the handling of food.
The clothing worn when handling food must be clean. It must differ from the clothing which is worn when travelling to and from work. It is important to remember that the purpose of overclothing is to protect the food from contamination.
It is good practice to wear hats or cover hair when handling food. Nobody likes to find hairs in their food and hats are a way of preventing hair from falling into food.

5. Protect food from contamination at all times

Complaints regarding food can and will arise if it becomes contaminated from bacteria or anything else! Ensuring that foods are protected at all times (from the point of delivery – right through to when it is prepared and served) will reduce the likelihood of food complaints.

The prevention of cross-contamination between raw and ready to eat foods, particularly from bacteria (E.coli and Clostridium sp.) on raw meats and root vegetables is one of the key themes likely to be assessed by EHOs on routine and targeted visits. Ensure that raw meat and dirty vegetable preparation activities are clearly separated and that the handling and storage of ready to eat foods is protected at all times.

Foods must also be protected from possible contamination by pests. Pests will be attracted to open foods and if they can get to it, they will contaminate food stuffs. Keeping foods covered and in lidded containers will reduce the risk of pests coming into the pub to eat.

6. Ensure all kitchen equipment is operating correctly and running at the correct temperatures

It is vital that all equipment in your kitchens is operating and being maintained in working order. In the case of fridges and freezers, these items prevent the growth of bacteria on food and store it at a safe temperature.
The requirement to service and maintain all other equipment is both a legal requirement and something which will prevent accidents. Any equipment which is not working should be removed from use and repaired or replaced as quickly as possible. Remember, it is important that all equipment is kept clean, whether it is being used, or awaiting repair. Equipment which could be dangerous must be clearly signed and prevented from being used.

7. Do not leave high risk food out of the fridge for any longer than necessary

High risk foods are those which are ready-to-eat and on which any bacteria may subsequently multiply to levels which may cause illnesses such as food poisoning. During the handling and preparation of high risk foods, the conditions for bacterial growth become more favourable as the temperature rises. By minimising the time such foods are out of the fridge, this will reduce the risk of bacteria multiplying to dangerous levels.

8. Check all food deliveries properly

There have been occasions when deliveries to food businesses has seen damaged, short-shelf-life and otherwise unfit foods being accepted, because there were no checks (and therefore no possibility that this food would be rejected).
By putting into practice robust checking of all deliveries, you can ensure the foods which your business receives are what you ordered. Not checking may see your pub as the recipient of dangerous and unfit food.

9. Keep records

The world of catering has certainly changed over the last 20 years. The introduction of the Food Safety Act 1990 and particularly the defence of due diligence saw the possibility of businesses able to defend complaints on the grounds they had robust food safety controls in place which could be shown to be effective and working. The drawback was the increased requirements for records and documentation. More recent changes to the law and the introduction of HACCP has meant records to show critical controls are in place and working are now required.
For these reasons, it is vital that the records which you have in place to prove food safety is controlled are completed and up to date. Remember, the records show controls were in place, but the completion of the records proves “diligence”!

10. Check for evidence of pest activity and take prompt action if found

Pests can cause damage and spread diseases. In some parts of the country there is an increased risk of pests. The first priority must be to ensure that pests are not permitted to gain access into your food premises. Once inside, some pests can be hard (if not impossible) to remove!
If evidence of pests is noted by either a member of staff or your pest controller, then it is vital the prompt action is taken to ensure they are eradicated, points of entry into the premises are blocked and proofed; and whilst treatments are being carried out the risks to food safety are reduced.

In order to ensure the reduction of risks from pests, you must ensure the following:

  • All foods are covered. Lidded plastic containers are good for this
  • Any evidence of pests (e.g. droppings, dead bodies, holes etc.) are recorded and then notified to the pest controller undertaking the treatment works – this information is likely to assist them in mapping the extent of a problem
  • Once recorded, ensure that all evidence of pests is removed and discarded. It is a potential contamination source and must be removed
  • Ensure that a two stage cleaning procedure is put into place in the kitchen. Work surfaces should be sprayed and wiped with a suitable sanitiser prior to starting any food handling
  • Consider covering crockery, cutlery and food equipment with film until such time as the risks of contamination has passed.

Pat Perry is chairman at food safety specialists Perry Scott Nash

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