New dishes on the menu, additional covers to cater for, seasonal staff to bolster the team – the festive season can mean a different way of working for many operations.
Amidst the changes and in a busier environment it’s easy to see how some of the routine checks and balances can be overlooked.
But it is vital to run a tight ship in the kitchen at times like this – particularly when it comes to food safety.
It’s an area that no business can afford to get wrong.
Few things will damage a venue’s reputation as severely as poor food hygiene, and anyone dealing with food has a responsibility to ensure it is stored, prepared and served in the safest way possible.
When it comes to food safety, temperature is crucial.
Tim Stutt, UK sales manager at Electronic Temperature Instruments Ltd, whose products include the Thermapen thermometer, said it is vital to ensure that the taking of key temperatures is a “routine everyday operation”.
“One person should be assigned primary responsibility for maintaining temperature logs of equipment,
along with one back-up person,” he said.
“Temperature logs should be reviewed by the back-up person at least weekly. All employees working with food should be familiar with proper temperature monitoring.
“Taking and monitoring storage and cooking temperatures can be time consuming, but to meet legal requirements, such activities are critical.”
The importance of temperature monitoring was underlined by Heather Beattie, brand manager for Hygiplas thermometers at Nisbets, who described it as “paramount within any foodservice environment”.
Despite the importance of temperature monitoring, the foodservice industry needs to “push it higher up the agenda”, according to Glenn Roberts, chair of the Catering Equipment Suppliers Association (CESA).
Claiming many businesses continue to use a paper-based log book because it “ticks the box”, Roberts said such a system is both prone to human error and costly because of the time required to maintain it.
Advocating a more modern approach to monitoring temperature, Roberts said there’s a range of digital systems available – from hand-held devices that record and log temperatures to monitoring sensors which can feed temperature information direct to a computer – which can save costs, save time and enhance food safety.
“Along with accuracy, better control and time saving there are a host of advantages to digital systems,” he said.
“The robustness and versatility of digital recording makes creating logs, searching for events and traceability very easy – helping caterers show and prove due diligence.
“With paper-based systems, you not only have to rely on staff recording the information accurately, but also on them filing it in the right place.”
Of course, food safety goes beyond temperature monitoring.
One of the biggest causes of allergic reactions is said to be cross contamination during food preparation, meaning allergen awareness is crucially important. To avoid cross contamination, chefs should ensure they have suitable equipment to create an “allergen-safe preparation area”, according to Mark Hogan, marketing and sales manager of Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM).
“As well as having the right equipment in the kitchen, all staff need to be trained in good kitchen practice in order to understand the requirements of food allergic individuals and how to prevent cross contamination,” said Hogan.