THEY say the only bad PR is no PR, but when it comes to food this might not be strictly true.
In fact, few things have the potential to devastate a hospitality business quite like a reputation for poor food hygiene.
With more and more licensed venues incorporating food into their offer, customers have a greater choice of places to eat than ever before.
And at a time when bad news can go viral over social media in a matter of minutes, it’s never been more important that businesses adhere to strict food hygiene standards.
“The risks of non-adherence are twofold,” said Andrea Macaulay, a tutor at City of Glasgow College.
“Firstly and most importantly they (the business) face legal action if their practices have resulted in providing contaminated food to their customers, and secondly the devastating impact to their business if this is proven to be the case.”
Macaulay said all food businesses have a legal responsibility to have a food safety management system in place, based on the principles of HACCP (Hazard and Critical Control Point).
A guide for how to create a food safety system can be found on the Food Standards Scotland website and covers the various hazards that can occur at each stage of food handling and preparation, including storage, risks of cross-contamination and the dangers of inadequate cooking.
Macaulay said the main pitfalls for food businesses tend to be in the areas of labelling, cleaning, allergens and personal hygiene.
While the basics of food hygiene remain fairly consistent, some requirements do change with the times, with a recent example being the importance of allergen awareness.
“With an increased prevalence of food allergies, extra care is needed to protect customers,” said a spokeswoman for Foodservice Equipment Marketing (FEM).
The risks are twofold: legal action and a devastating impact to your business.
Technology, too, continues to evolve, with new equipment helping to make the task of maintaining hygiene standards easier than ever.
The FEM spokeswoman pointed to the latest digital thermometers as an example of technology helping to safeguard food hygiene.
“Being able to easily and quickly check food temperature is essential for food safety in the modern commercial kitchen,” she said.
“It’s also essential for food quality and consistency.”
In addition to helping with the storage and preparation of food, some of the latest innovations can also be helpful in the event of legal action, said Macaulay at City of Glasgow College.
“Equipment has developed significantly, including digital data logging equipment,” she said.
“This can be very helpful to support a due diligence defence if required.”
Ultimately, no tech – no matter how advanced – will be able to compensate for poor hygiene standards in a kitchen and so Macaulay stressed the importance of proper staff training.
“The simplest approach is all staff complete an elementary food hygiene course which is reinforced in the business with regular on site refresher training,” she said.
• No labelling
• Lack of knowledge about allergen management
• Poor personal hygiene
• Insufficient recording systems