Sponsored by DayMark
The proper rotation and labeling of all stored foods should be a central element of any foodservice operator’s food-safety protocols.
Labeling plays an important role in various aspects of foodservice operations. Those include not only helping to ensure food safety, but also providing ingredient information to indicate allergens and help grab-and-go customers make choices based on dietary preferences or nutritional concerns.
Those critical functions call for dependable solutions that can be centrally controlled and minimize the risk for human error—especially given the high turnover and staffing shortfalls in the noncommercial foodservice environment. Proper dating, rotation and labeling need to be as simple as possible for everyday workers, whose actions are key to ensuring food safety and quality and protecting the health of customers.
Dating foods helps ensure that they are being rotated properly, using a first-in, first-out (FIFO) system, says Jeff Nelken, a food-safety consultant based in Los Angeles. It’s not enough for operators to simply place the newest containers of food behind or beneath older containers, he explains, because workers may move containers out of position.
One recommended method of dating foods is to list both the date the food was prepared and the date it expires.
CDC recommends date-marking practices
Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that while most operators listed the date their refrigerated and ready-to-eat foods were no longer safe, nearly one in four did not do so. The CDC recommends that operators use strong date-marking practices and policies, noting that foodborne pathogens such as Listeria Monocytogenes can grow at refrigeration temperatures.
Date-marking is recommended in the Food and Drug Administration’s Food Code, which suggests that certain foods that require time/temperature control for safety (TCS) should not be kept for more than seven days. Moreover, the FDA says those foods should be marked with the date that the food should be eaten, sold or discarded.
In addition to dating, Nelken also recommends that workers initial the containers of foods that they prepare.
“This way they take ownership and pride in what they put in the containers, and make sure it’s being done carefully,” he says.
Labeling is important not only to identify what the product is, but also what ingredients it contains—particularly allergens, says Nelken.
“Allergies are a very serious issue, and there’s not enough focus across the industry on allergies,” he says.
Nelken says he often finds that workers in the front-of-the-house tend to have some awareness about the importance of food allergies, but knowledge in the back-of-the-house can be less extensive. In addition to a strong training program about the importance of taking precautions to prevent allergen contamination in the kitchen, Nelken also suggests that operators place posters in the back-of-the-house explaining different allergies, the symptoms of an allergic reaction, and information reminding workers of best practices when it comes to preventing contamination.
As schools, hospitals and other noncommercial foodservice operators increasingly incorporate grab-and-go prepared foods into their offerings, it is also becoming more important to label foods with nutritional and ingredient information. That includes not only calling out allergens, but also labeling to appeal to consumers who are following specific dietary regimens, such as vegan, gluten-free or others.
Labels also need to withstand the rigors of kitchen conditions without creating unsanitary conditions by leaving sticky residue on food packaging.
DayMark’s MenuPilot® application, together with the streamlined corporate management of menu data via the MenuCommand® web portal, facilitate the centralized management and communication of critical menu data and training materials for operators. Paired with DayMark’s Matt85™ and Matt77™ direct thermal label printers, the system enables on-demand production of labels for dating and ingredient labeling, providing efficient, time-saving solutions for date-labeling, product rotation and grab-and-go labeling.
“MenuPilot and Menu Command are tools that our customers use to allow them to both manage at the corporate level and execute at the store level,” says Jeffrey Gayer, president and CEO, CMC Group, parent of DayMark.
DayMark also offers a wide range of label and adhesive types for its printers that provide a solution that is far superior to masking tape or other makeshift solutions.
DayMark’s labels include DissolveMark®, featuring a Dissolve-A-Way® adhesive that leaves no residue; ToughMark™, designed to be reused multiple times and are ideal for steam tables; MoveMark™ Day of the Week, that help ensure proper rotation; DuraMark™, designed for permanent adhesion for disposable containers in a wide range of temperatures; and TamperSeal™, designed with an aggressive adhesive and tamper-evident slits for use in the food delivery service industry.