Protecting Your Customers from Foodborne Illness

Delicious food can make a name for a restaurant, but food poisoning can ruin an otherwise sterling reputation. Food-related general liability claims, including food poisoning from contamination, account for the majority of claims in the restaurant industry. Follow these steps in the kitchen to help ensure your diners have a positive experience:

Food Temperature and Storage

  • Obtain food from reputable sources that comply with the law.
  • Inspect food upon receipt, and record the source and lot information.
  • Follow the “first in, first out” rule: Food received first is used first. Check expiration dates prior to use.
  • Identify food allergens used as ingredients – and those which may have been in contact with ingredients – on the product’s label or menu.
  • Wash all fresh fruits and vegetables in potable water prior to preparation.
  • Do not allow cooked foods to sit for more than four hours at bacteria-incubation temperatures of 41°F to 140°F.
  • Thaw raw meat and fish:
    • At refrigeration temperatures below 41°F
    • By completely submerging under potable running water at 70°F or less, for a period of time that does not allow thawed portions to rise above 41°F
    • In a microwave oven followed immediately by conventional or continued microwave cooking
  • Do not serve cooked foods prepared more than a day beforehand if the food was stored inside the bacteria-incubation range of 41°F to 140°F.
  • Implement and follow procedures for checking expiration dates of pre-prepared foods and for measuring and recording temperatures.
  • Cook all hot food thoroughly and maintain at 135°F or above.
  • Cool foods from 135°F to 70°F within two hours, and from 135°F to 41°F within six hours after cooking, if they are cooked on-site and meant to be served cool. Maintain the maximum temperature (41°F) until the food is served.
  • Cool foods prepared from ingredients at room temperature to 41°F within four hours.

Food Handling

  • Sanitize knives and other utensils used to prepare raw foods before using them on different food products.
  • Bandage wounds and open sores and treat with antiseptic; further cover bandaged hand wounds or sores with waterproof, disposable plastic gloves when handling food.
  • Before handling food, thoroughly wash hands in hot water and soap immediately after any of the following activities:
    • Using the restroom
    • Using a handkerchief or tissue to blow your nose or wipe your eyes
    • Coughing or sneezing into hands, a handkerchief, a paper towel, etc.
    • Touching mouth, nose, eyes, ears, hair, or any other part of the body
    • Preparing, washing, or otherwise handling raw food
    • Performing scullery operations (cleaning culinary utensils, dinnerware, flatware, tables, counters, etc.)
    • Touching any other unclean objects or equipment
    • Eating food or drinking beverages
    • Smoking or chewing tobacco or gum

By following recommended storage, handling, and cooking procedures, you can help protect your customers from foodborne illness. Review the federal Food and Drug Administration’s resources on food safety for more information on how to stay compliant with standards, codes, and laws.



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The illustrations, instructions, and principles in this material are general in scope and, to the best of our knowledge, current at the time of publication. No attempt has been made to interpret any referenced codes, standards, or regulations nor to identify all potential risks or requirements.