Sponsored by DayMark
“Cold food cold and hot food hot” is an oft-repeated mantra for restaurant operators when it comes to getting the temperature of a dish right. However, when it comes to identifying the most common health code violations, a more appropriate phrase might be “cold food warm and hot food warm.”
The most frequent health code violations are related to improper food temperatures — cold food that has not been held cold enough and hot food held not hot enough, says Mary FitzGerald, founder of Los Angeles-based Safe and Sound Food Safety Consultants.
“Cold and hot handling is very, very important,” says FitzGerald, who assists operators with food safety strategies. “Temperature is what prevents bacteria from growing.”
Health code violations
Health code violations include not using a food thermometer when preparing foods, holding hot foods below 135 degrees Fahrenheit and taking too long to cool down hot foods.
One way to ensure food temperature compliance is to invest in a system which monitors refrigeration and temperature, says FitzGerald. A good system will monitor temperatures, alert employees to potential problems and provide record keeping to verify compliance.
Franchise operator Bennett Enterprises has improved its monitoring and temperature controls since implementing Hawk Safety, a cloud-based HACCP compliance system, in some of its restaurants, says area supervisor Chuck Baacke. HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) is a management system with which food safety is addressed through the analysis and control of biological, chemical and physical hazards from raw material production, procurement and handling to manufacturing, distribution and consumption of the finished product.
Based in Perrysburg, Ohio, Bennett Enterprises owns and operates 13 Frisch’s Big Boy’s restaurants and seven Ralphie’s Sports Eatery locations as well as other brands. Working with DayMark Safety Systems, a supplier of a variety of food safety solutions, Bennett first tested the Hawk Safety platform at two of its restaurants last year. Following that, Baacke asked that it be rolled out to the other six restaurants in his region earlier in 2017.
Enforcing critical control points
Hawk provides temperature monitoring for refrigeration and various checks, such as line checks and cleaning. The system helps enforce critical control points such as proper refrigeration and cooking temperatures. The components can be used separately; however, using the entire system together provides HACCP compliance, the company says. Data is backed up to the cloud so that the information is secure and accessible at any time, from any location.
“One thing that became apparent when we first rolled it out was that we had a few specific products that were ‘frequent offenders,’” Baacke says. “From there we were able to adjust the way those products were handled or stored in order to correct the problem.”
Using a HACCP-compliant system can assist restaurant operators in maintaining a food safety standard, FitzGerald says.
“Today’s health code inspectors are interested in management control; they want to know that the operators are in control of their spaces,” she says.
The restaurants under Baacke’s supervision relied on written shift reports before switching to the cloud-based program, he says. Using Hawk has made it easier to access records at each of his stores to determine how many temperature checks are being completed and who is following the program.
Previously, the restaurant staffs completed daily food safety logs at the end of each shift. The forms walked shift managers through a specific set of temperatures for hot and cold holding as well as deliveries. They also included date marking, rotation, cleanliness and sanitizer strength checks.
”However, as with any system, it’s only as good as the effort put into it and the follow-up used to make sure it is happening,” Baacke says. “With a paper checklist it's easy to cheat the system and enter fictitious data. That cannot happen with the Hawk System.”
Human error is a leading cause of health code infractions, together with equipment failures, FitzGerald says.
“Kitchens are short-staffed these days so the question becomes; ‘Are staffers checking temperatures when they are setting up the line at mid-day, after lunch and the pre-shift before dinner?’” FitzGerald asks. “A lot of things are on a human’s plate these days, so any kind of digital tool will help.”
With the Hawk program from DayMark, Baacke’s restaurant managers can show health code inspectors the computer-generated reports which verify that the appropriate temperature checks are being made.
“We had a refrigeration unit that was discovered to be not holding product at the correct temperatures during a health inspection,” Baacke recalls. “We were able to pull up the temperature history of the unit and demonstrate [to the inspector] that it was a new problem.”
The data also proved useful later in demonstrating to the equipment repair company that its initial repair was not effective, he says.
Clearly, with today's restaurants coming under more intense scrutiny when it comes to health code infractions, operators can use all the help they can get to keep “hot food hot” and “cold food cold.”