When microorganisms are unintentionally present in food, they are considered biological contamination. Learn how to detect and avoid it.
How to prevent foodborne illness?
Foodborne illness is the result of consuming hazardous foods and beverages. You can best prevent foodborne illness by ...
- Foodborne illness is the result of consuming hazardous foods and beverages.
- You can best prevent foodborne illness by regularly observing proper food safety practices.
- One of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent foodborne illness is to correctly and regularly wash your hands and only process foods with clean hands.
No customer would ever dream of spending the night in the hospital because of a foodborne illness. At the very least, any customer who contracts a foodborne illness to hear about food recalls from your services or products would never come back to your restaurant.
Foodborne illnesses are a product of poor food safety practices in an establishment. In addition to serving quality foods, learning how to prevent foodborne illnesses from occurring is part of the responsibility of food handlers to consumers.
Preventing the occurrence of foodborne illnesses is a year-round task. It is an important part of a food handler's food safety training. Every day, food safety and hygiene practices must be religiously applied to minimize the risk of illness. In doing so, food businesses also help minimize economic loss and help promote sustainability. With fewer cases of foodborne illnesses every year, the workforce and food supply can normally function.
Find out the most basic ways of how can you prevent foodborne illness from occurring as a result of the food item you produce and serve in this article.
What causes foodborne illnesses?
Any foodborne illness results from the consumption of contaminated foods with biological, chemical, or physical hazards. To date, more than 250 different foodborne illnesses have been identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The majority of these illnesses are caused by biological contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Other cases of foodborne illnesses have also been reported to be caused by toxins and chemical contamination of clean food.
As previously mentioned, foodborne illnesses result from poor food safety practices and careless food processing. The tasks under a food safety plan encourage having a clean and safe environment to minimize the occurrence of pathogens and other hazards.
Foodborne illnesses may be caused by the following factors:
- Inadequate cooking temperature
- Unverified food supply
- Poor personal hygiene
- Improper storage temperature
These mentioned factors can promote the growth of bacteria and other pathogens and creat hazardous foods. Improper food handling has resulted in many issues such as foodborne illness outbreaks in the past. Undercooked meat has been linked to cases that have resulted in severe gastrointestinal symptoms, hospitalizations, and even death in some cases.
Who is at risk for foodborne illness?
All consumers exposed to a food safety hazard are similarly exposed to the risk of having a foodborne illness. Although, some high-risk groups are more likely to get a foodborne illness even with minimal exposure to a food hazard.
This group consists of the following:
- Pregnant women
- Children under 5 years old
- The elderly
- Individuals with autoimmune disease
These individuals have a weakened immune system when compared to a healthy person. Therefore, they are more likely to get affected by a foodborne illness. Chances are, the effects of a common foodborne illness can inflict severe symptoms in their case.
Depending on the degree of food contamination, even a perfectly healthy person can get sick. They can also experience common symptoms such as abdominal cramps or stomach flu. This is why attention to food safety is important.
How to prevent foodborne illness in a restaurant?
In a restaurant or any food establishment, your team must be well-prepared to address and control any potential hazards that may be present. Your team is required to implement a food safety management system (FSMS) with the objective of monitoring and ensuring that all food safety practices are performed correctly and on time. In addition, this system will include a list of food safety practices to help keep your food establishment free of hazards and your consumers safe from foodborne illnesses.
To help you answer the question "What is the most important way to prevent a foodborne illness from bacteria?" and come up with the most important food safety practices for your food establishment, we've listed 10 basic yet effective ways to do this.
10 ways to prevent foodborne illness
- Wash hands regularly and correctly. Perhaps one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent foodborne illnesses is to properly wash your hands. Major contaminants can be transferred from one place to another through a food employee's hand. As such, regular hand washing must be done before, in between, and after service. In addition, this task must be properly done to increase efficacy. Use soapy water and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds to ensure that your hands are free of any pathogens. Check out this handwashing poster for your reference.
- Practice personal hygiene. In addition to hand washing, other personal hygiene practices may include wearing of clean uniform, using hairnets, regularly clipping nails, and covering your mouth and nose with your sleeve when sneezing are important. You can prevent foodborne illness by ensuring that your food employees are in good health and that any sick food handler must not attend service. Some pathogens such as viruses can be transmitted to food from a human carrier.
- Clean equipment and food contact surfaces. Another route for cross-contamination of food is through equipment and utensils to food. With limited space and equipment, some restaurants won't be able to accommodate separate sets for raw food and ready-to-eat ones. Bacteria on kitchen surfaces can easily transfer to any cooked products. As such, regular cleaning and sanitation in between use must be practiced. All kitchen surfaces that come in contact with food must be cleaned at least every 4 hours or every after preparing raw food. Use disinfectants and paper towels or clean cloths for cleaning surfaces.
- Always use separate cutting boards and knives for raw materials and ready-to-eat foods. For utensils such as knives and cutting boards, using separate sets for preparing raw and cooked foods is a must. Raw foods have a higher risk of containing harmful bacteria and these can remain on the chopping boards. Once ready-to-eat foods come in contact with these utensils, they can easily spread foodborne diseases. Ready-to-eat foods require little to no food prep process and therefore will retain the pathogens on their surface once contaminated.
- Store foods in a location with a controlled temperature. During storage, safe food can also get contaminated. This reason is why we suggest properly categorizing foods based on their type (e.g., ready-to-eat, raw, requires medium processing, etc). Cases such as blood drippings from raw meat can contaminate other foods. In addition, perishable food must be kept in a tight container to protect them from contaminants. The correct temperature during storage plays a very important role in keeping foods fresh and away from food safety hazards. With a constant refrigerator temperature of around 40°F (4°C), the growth of bacteria and other pathogens is slowed down or stopped. A refrigerated food stays wholesome for a longer time than foods that are not held at cold temperatures.
- Control temperature of foods during display. For foods that are meant to be served later, such as in a cafeteria setting, holding them at a particular temperature is important. To keep food safe, it must stay out of the temperature danger zone where bacteria in food multiply significantly faster. Chill foods under a proper temperature of 40°F (4°C), whereas hot foods must be kept hot by storing them in a chafing dish to maintain at least 135°F (57°F) and above.
- Cook food thoroughly to the correct internal temperature. Since almost all raw materials have naturally occurring microorganisms, the only way to render them safe for consumption is to thoroughly cook them. To do this, foods such as raw meats must reach a recommended internal cooking temperature to ensure thorough processing up until their cold spots. Using a clean meat thermometer as a guide, the internal temperature must reach the safe range. This ensures that all spots in food have been equally treated with heat to deactivate the pathogens.
- Implement a waste management plan. A good source of foodborne pathogens is food waste. Not to mention, food waste attracts pests, which carry some of the most dangerous foodborne pathogens. You can prevent food poisoning by implementing a food waste management plan that will cover how to properly dispose of waste and the frequency of disposal.
- Keep track of expiration dates. With several multiple dishes in a restaurant, a lot of raw materials are bound to come in and out of your storage area. To ensure that the food you will be serving at your restaurant establishment is safe, always monitor the expiration dates of your commodities and commercial products. With proper storage, raw materials can be safely used up until their recommended date of use. Practice the First-In-First-Out system to avoid any raw material from going bad.
- Ensure the quality of raw materials. If the raw materials that you receive are already in bad condition, the risk of causing foodborne illnesses is still high even with cooking and proper handling. Only source your raw materials from reputable suppliers and require them to submit proof of regular testing. Your suppliers must be able to uphold the same level of food safety standards as your food business. This must also apply to your source of tap water.
In addition to implementing these food safety practices, constant monitoring is a must. A working food safety management system includes a monitoring system for every food safety task. At FoodDocs, we offer a smart solution to monitoring your operations. We've taken the traditional FSMS to a whole new level and created a digital platform for food businesses.
Our digital FSMS features digital monitoring forms that can save your employees' time through its auto-fill feature. All that is left to do for your employees is to verify the logged information. In addition, no food safety task will get left behind as our digital FSMS features a smart notification system that alerts food handlers of any food safety task to be done. Switching to our digital solution would only require you to answer some basic questions and you will get a complete digital FSMS in an average of 15 minutes.
What measures should be taken to prevent a seafood-specific foodborne illness?
Seafood and other seafood products have been linked to several different foodborne illnesses such as cholera and typhoid fever. The pathogens that made people sick in these food poisoning cases are known to be also found in contaminated water sources. Similar to any other raw materials, seafood and seafood products can either have naturally occurring pathogens or have these pathogens that cause bacterial infection introduced during preparation.
In a food establishment, you can best prevent foodborne illness by implementing the following food handling practices:
- Hold seafood at 40°F (4°C) and below to prevent viruses from growing and slow down bacterial growth.
- Cook any type of seafood to a minimum safe temperature of 145°F (63°C).
- Keep raw and cooked meat in separate containers.
- Regularly wash hands in between preparation.
- Practice correct hot holding standards.
- Purchase only high-quality seafood products.
Under the ruling of the Food and Drug Administration of the US, seafood manufacturers are required to implement food safety plans that contain ways to prevent any foodborne infection specific to seafood products. Learn more about seafood HACCP here.
Preventing the spread of foodborne illnesses using digital FSMS
Simply knowing how can you prevent foodborne illnesses and the basics of food safety may not be enough to control them from occurring. Proper and regular implementation is required to ensure their effectiveness. Using a traditional FSMS, you can do this but by the end of the month, your file cabinets will already be filled with monitoring forms.
In addition, a traditional FSMS does not ensure that your food employees will not forget some of the most important food safety tasks. What you need is an FSMS that will help you efficiently get the job done fast, while giving you detailed progress reports and enough time to manage your business.
At FoodDocs, we offer our digital Food Safety Management System. Built by our team of food safety experts, this digital solution promises to significantly increase the efficiency of your food safety system and ensure that every task gets done on time and correctly. The process of switching to our digital solution is not that complicated. In fact, all it takes is for you to answer a few basic questions about your operations, and our system will automatically generate a comprehensive digital FSMS for you!
What's even greater is that the whole process will only take an average of 15 minutes! In that amount of time, our system can automatically tailor the digital FSMS to your daily operations. What is exactly in a digital FSMS, you ask? Here is a list of what you will get:
- Digital monitoring from. These monitoring forms are automatically generated based on the most important tasks for your food business. They can be set to be automatically filled based on your previous data entries to save your employees' time.
- Smart notification system. With this system feature, your employees will never forget to do any of your food safety tasks. Using our mobile application, intuitive notifications will be sent to assigned food safety personnel for any task that is due.
- Real-time dashboard. This feature gives you an overview of your whole food safety operations across your different branches. You can save at least 20% of your time by managing your food safety operations and you can easily point out areas that may need improvement.
- Cloud storage. You will get a dedicated storage system where you can store, organize, and access your digital documents without any hassle.
You do not need to be tech-savvy to use our system. At FoodDocs, we want to make food safety compliance attainable for everyone - even those that hate digital platforms. With our system, you do not have to face any hassle as the switch itself will only take 15 minutes. Additionally, our team of expert customer support can help you set up and improve your digital FSMS.
Start your food safety journey with us by availing of our free, 14-day trial. Use this free trial to work your way around and experience our digital FSMS.