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10 Energy Saving & Compliance Tips For Your Restaurant

Here are suggestions for energy savings and compliance with the Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations:

1. Ensure efficient door closers for coolers. I frequently observe cooks open doors on line coolers and the doors are left standing open until someone thinks to kick them closed. What a waste of cold air and increased compressor run time! It equals $$ lost, plus foods can warm up above 41 F.

10 Energy Saving & Compliance Tips For Your Restaurant2. Obtain and use the Comark PDT-300 thermometer. The regulations require a thin probe thermometer if you serve “thin foods” such as patties. I use it, it is NSF approved, and in my opinion, it is the best one for the money.

3. Use overhead glass hangers for 3-compartment sinks if drain board space is lacking. The regulations specifically allow for “alternative methods” for drying in lieu of drain boards.

4. Use metal pans, instead of plastic, for prep table coolers. Metal is superior in heat conduction and will REALLY help your foods stay at 41 F or below, which is required.10 Energy Saving & Compliance Tips For Your Restaurant

5. Ensure tight fitting pivot lids on prep table coolers. If yours have gaps or are loose fitting, this allows warm air in, energy $$ are lost, and foods can warm up above 41 F.

6. Be aware that due to the increased emphasis on hand washing and the prohibition of bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food, it is more and more common for additional hand sinks to be required, especially in existing facilities. The smaller modular hand sinks with integrated splash guards are a great and relatively inexpensive solution.

10 Energy Saving & Compliance Tips For Your Restaurant

7. Use nail brushes…although they are not required, clean fingernails are required.  I know of no other way to clean under nails than with a brush.

8. Purchase color codedutensils.  They are a great way, if used properly, to separate raw meats from ready-to-eat foods, preventing cross contamination. They are a convenient, easy for non-English speaking employees to comprehend, and easy for managers to verify their proper use by employees.

9. Install additional shelving in your walk-in cooler.  Step back and look at your shelves and the food containers on them.  Do you have unused vertical space?  Get the most out of your walk-in!

10. Use walk-in cooler curtains.  They help maintain the temperature of foods in the walk-in and result in $$ savings in energy costs.

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Test Strips and Sanitizers: A Complete Buying Guide

Are Test Strips Required, and Why?

Commercial sanitizers and test strips are required by health department regulations, and in Colorado those are the Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations.  Why do you need Test Strips and Sanitizers: A Complete Buying Guidethem?  Because test strips tell you if the chemical sanitizing solution is the required concentration.  Section 4-402 reads:

“A test kit or other device that accurately measures the concentration in parts per million (mg/L) of the sanitizing solution shall be available and used.”

What is Sanitization and Why is it Important?

Good questions, and I’m glad you asked!  Here is the definition from Section 1-202:

“Sanitization means the application of cumulative heat or chemicals on cleaned food-contact surfaces that, when evaluated for efficacy, is sufficient to yield a reduction 5 logs, which is equal to a 99.999% reduction, of representative disease microorganisms of public health importance.”

Simply put, if you apply either sufficient heat, or sufficient chemical sanitizer, then nasty microbes that can make you sick are reduced by 99.999%.  That protects you and your customers, and it is important.  The regulations define how much is sufficient, and I discuss that next.

Test Strips and Sanitizers: A Complete Buying Guide

Types of Chemical Sanitizers

The three most common chemical sanitizers are chlorine-based, quaternary ammonia (QA), and iodine- based.  The required concentration ranges are below:

  • Chlorine-based (available chlorine as hypochlorite) | Between 50 ppm and 200 ppm
  • Quaternary ammonia (QA) | Between 100 ppm and 400 ppm
  • Iodine-based (available iodine) | Between 12.5 ppm and 25 ppm

How Do You Use Test Strips and How Often?

Chlorine-based sanitizers:  Dip the strip into the sanitizing solution, then immediately remove and compare to the color chart.  If it reads between 50 ppm and 200 ppm, then the concentration is fine.

Quaternary ammonia (QA) sanitizers:  Dip the strip into the sanitizing solution for 10 seconds, then remove and compare to the color chart.  If it reads between 100 ppm and 400 ppm, then the concentration is fine.

Iodine-based sanitizers:  Dip the strip into the sanitizing solution for 60 seconds, then remove and compare to the color chart.  If it reads between 12.5 ppm and 25 ppm, then the concentration is fine.

If the concentration is either too low or too high, either add sanitizer or dilute as needed in order to achieve the required concentration.Test Strips and Sanitizers: A Complete Buying Guide

How often do you need to check the concentration?  The Colorado regulation does not specify.  But you need to check often enough to ensure the proper concentration at all times.  A minimum of twice a day is my recommendation.

If you have a high temperature dish machine in Colorado, you must provide a minimum temperature of 160 F on the surface of utensils/equipment to ensure that sanitizing has actually occurred.  Since dish machine gauges can be inaccurate, purchase and regularly use hot water test labels.

Fryer oil and pH test strips are not required by the Colorado regulations.

Remember This!

  1. Test chemical sanitizers in all locations.  This includes the buckets for your wiping cloths, the 3-compartment sink, and the low temperature dish machine.
  2. Inspectors will often ask for your test strips and have you test the sanitizing solution, or they will test it themselves. Asking you to provide the strips will show them if you keep them readily available…a manager scrambling to find them is a bad sign!  Secondly, watching you do the test will show them if you know how, so be prepared.
  3. The requirement for test strips is non-critical, and if you violate it, it is marked as an 11C violation on the inspection form. But have the strips, use them, make sure your staff knows how to use them, and keep all your sanitizing solutions at the proper concentration.
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When, Where, And What To Expect From A Health Inspection

When, Where, And What To Expect From A Health InspectionI sometimes hear employees say that health inspections occur only between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm on weekdays. Well…that is when they usually DO occur, but they CAN occur just about anytime.

When Inspections Occur

The Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations state, “Agents of the Department, after proper identification, shall be permitted to enter any retail food establishment during business hours and at other times during which activity is evident to determine compliance with these rules and regulations.”

If you open at 11:00 am, the inspector can inspect your prep activities at, say, 10:00 am – SURPRISE!  If you close at 9:00 pm, the inspector can arrive at 8:30 pm and inspect your final food service and your closing procedures.

Early-bird inspectors can show up at 6:30 am (I’m not kidding), on Saturday morning, or night-owls may start late and work through the evening hours.  It all depends on how the local agency schedules their inspectors.

What to Expect

Inspections determine compliance with the rules – that is their purpose.  It may be a complete inspection, or it can be an inspection focusing on just the critical items.  At other times a customer complaint can generate an inspection.  In any case, expect the primary emphasis to be on the food, food handling practices, employee hygiene, hand washing, and prevention of cross contamination.
Your inspector will check representative food temperatures in most, if not all, of your hot and cold holding units.  Be prepared to explain your procedures for cooling and reheating.  If you have a pest control contact, show it to the inspector to demonstrate your good faith effort to control this area.

If you use temperature logs, it is a good idea to show them.  If critical violations are found, correct them immediately if possible, and request that the inspector document your corrective action.

For example, if soup is 130 F on the steam table, immediately reheat it to at least 165 F, then place it back into service.

Where Can They Look?

Your premises is subject to inspection.  Premises is defined as “the physical facility, its contents and the contiguous land or property and its facilities and contents that may impact retail food establishment personnel, facilities, or operations.

Practically speaking, be prepared to have at least the following areas routinely inspected:  the entire BOH, all food storage areas, chemical storage rooms or closets, FOH server stations, dining room salad bars, entire bar operations, and dumpster areas.

Few things are more suspicious to an inspector than sensing an area is being concealed from them!

Final Recommendation

Don’t make food safety a game of cat and mouse. For the sake of your customers health, your business investment, and your reputation, exert consistent control over your food safety procedures and the practices of your employees. Do it every shift, every day.

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Are Serving Utensils Going To Get You In Trouble With The Health Inspector?

You have 4 options for storing “in-use” dispensing utensils…the requirement is in Section 3-306 of the Colorado Retail Food Establishment Rules and Regulations:

  1. Stored in the food with the dispensing utensil handle extended out of the food
  2. Stored clean and dry
  3. Stored in potable running water as in a running water dipper well
  4. Stored at temperatures of 135 F and above, or 41 F and below
Are Serving Utensils Going To Get You In Trouble With The Health Inspector?

This photo depicts a proper practice, using option #1. This what your inspector likes to see.

Health inspectors see some disgusting practices, such as:

  • Chefs knives stored with their blades in cracks between equipment.  These cracks are often lined with grease and old food residue.
  • Knives stored on wall-mounted magnetic strips, but the blades are soiled or the knife rack itself is encrusted with grease, crumbs and residue.
  • Dispensing utensils stored in a bucket of standing room temperature water, with lots of floating food debris.

Think about that from your customers perspective…would you want your food prepared with those utensils?  Neither would I!

Besides storing in-use utensils properly, be sure the blades and handles are in good condition.   I was with a customer recently and noticed a grill spatula with a sizable sliver of metal missing from the spatula blade. I can only hope it ended up on the floor or in the trash, and not in food!

Examine the food contact surfaces of your utensils and see if any of the following are present:

  1. Chipped or ragged edges of metal spatulas.
  2. Cracks or breaks in plastic ice scoops.
  3. Splinters or chips on wooden knife handles.
  4. Wooden cutting boards with deep grooves and potential loose wood debris.
  5. Fraying edges of plastic spatulas.

Those surfaces are not “easily cleanable” and they pose a real potential for material to end up in the food. How do you spell LAWSUIT?  Make it part of your management walk-thru to watch for these problems and train your staff to do the same.

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A Review of My Favorite Pocket Thermometer

A Review of My Favorite Pocket ThermometerAbove is an image of my favorite thermometer for everyday food service use, the COMARK PDT-300.

Here is why:

  1. It is NSF approved and meets the Colorado requirement for a thin probe thermometer to measure the temperatures of thin foods such as patties, fillets, etc.
  2. It reads quickly, in just a few seconds.
  3. It is reliable and durable, withstanding drops and continual use.
  4. The battery just keeps going…mine typically lasts about a year, and you can imagine how often I use my thermometer.
  5. Performing an ice water calibration is simple and takes less than one minute.
  6. The price is unbeatable…less than $20 at Tundra Specialties.

One question that frequently arises is where to place the thermometer when taking the temperature of food.  That is best answered by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in Annex 5 of the 2009 FDA Model Food Code:

The geometric center or thickest part of a product are the points of measurement of product temperature particularly when measuring critical limits for cooking.
The geometric center of a product is usually the point of measurement of product temperature particularly when measuring the critical limit for cold holding.

As a former health department food safety manager, I’ve used many types over the years, and in my opinion, it’s the best for the money for everyday food service use.  I regularly demonstrate it to my customers, and they invariably ask me where to buy one – the answer is easy; I tell them Tundra Specialties.

My name is Jim Austin and since 2001 I’ve been a food safety consultant in private practice, based in Denver, Colorado. I am a former Colorado local health department manager who was responsible for the food inspection program. I know how the world of government regulation really works, and I enjoy helping my customers deal confidently with the health department and protect their business interests.

For a free initial consultation, please contact me:

Colorado Restaurant Consulting

303-728-4878

jim@coloradorestaurantconsulting.com

http://www.coloradorestaurantconsulting.com/

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Two Products That Will Really Help Your Food Safety Efforts

I want to talk about some products that can really help your food safety efforts:

1.  Stainless steel 1/6 pans for your prep table coolers. Stainless is a much better conductor  than plastic, so Two Products That Will Really Help Your Food Safety Effortskeep your foods in them and it will help you avoid critical cold holding violations from the health department.  Additionally, do the following:

  • Ensure that foods are 41 F or below BEFORE placing them in cold holding units.  These types of coolers are designed to hold cold foods, not to cool them.
  • Do not overfill inserts.  Mounding foods is a near guarantee that the top portion rises in temperature.
  • Keep the pivot lid closed during slow periods.  I regularly see open lids during afternoon slow periods, and foods are warming up unnecessarily.

2.  Additional epoxy wire shelving for your walk-in coolers. I often observe shelves in walk-ins with considerable unused vertical space between the shelves.  In a walk-in, this is wasted space that you can easily reclaim for the one time expense of adding shelving.  And if you’re going to buy new shelving, make sure it’s epoxy coated.  This prevents rust from forming and keeps your shelves clean.

Two Products That Will Really Help Your Food Safety EffortsThink about these examples:

  • If you normally cool foods in several 2” pans, then install shelves close enough for the pans to slide in side by side.Two Products That Will Really Help Your Food Safety Efforts
  • If you store vegetables in 6” food storage boxes, then install your shelves close enough for them to slide them in side by side:  Two Products That Will Really Help Your Food Safety Efforts

I hope you are visualizing your walk-in cooler and considering how you can maximize your space.  Installing extra shelving eliminates the tendency to stack containers and will ensure airflow around each container.

Just so you know, this is not just a theory to me … I have customers who have successfully done this, solving longstanding cooling and cold holding problems in their walk-in coolers.

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