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Get great tips on how to maximize food safety in your commercial kitchen or restaurant.

How Often Should You Calibrate a Thermometer?

Although, the FDA doesn’t have strict documentation listed on how often restaurateurs and others in the food service industry should be calibrating thermometers, in order for HACCP plans to be successful, it’s important that thermometers are calibrated to measure within +/- 2° F (1.1° C) of the actual temperature being monitored. However, the FDA and local board of health regulations do have set rules on time and temperature specifications for every type of food that is served to the public, and because of this HACCP principle 3 speaks directly to maintaining critical limits, like time and temperature checks.

The need to calibrate thermometers will be different in each HACCP, as it depends on how often temperatures need to be checked. Some businesses will do a daily thermometer calibration, whereas others may only do yearly checks.  The good news here is that calibrating thermometers is easy.

Other Thermometer Calibrating Tips

  • If a thermometer is ever dropped, you should go ahead and calibrate it.
  • If a thermometer is going from a wide variety of temperatures (from freezing temperatures to boiling temperatures), it should also be calibrated more frequently.
  • Every time you invest in a new thermometer, calibrate it before using it.
  • If you use your thermometer on a daily basis, odds are you’ll want to calibrate it on a daily basis.
  • Altitude will play a big part in the boiling part of water, so use this chart to help clear things up:

Altitude (Feet) Altitude (Meters) Boiling Point (°F) Boiling Point (°C)
0 0 212°F 100°C
1,000 305 210°F 98.9°C
2,000 610 208°F 97.8°C
3,000 914 206.4°F 96.9°C
4,000 1,219 204.5°F 95.8°C
5,000 1,524 202.75°F 94.9°C
6,000 1,829 201° F 93.6°C
7,000 2,134 199° F 92.6°C
8,000 2,438 197.5°F 91.9°C
10,000 3,048 194° F 89.6°C
12,000 3,658 190° F 87.8°C
14,000 4,267 187° F 86.1°C
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3 Sink Basin Dishwashing [Infographic]

The 3 sink basin dishwashing system is a well-known clean, rinse, sanitize, and dry method in many restaurants and bars. It’s a way to ensure that dishes are properly cleaned, sanitized, and ready to re-use. With this handy step-by-step guide for 3 sink basin dishwashing, it’s even easier to remember the importance of each step. It can also help remind staff of the do’s and don’ts for the process.

And if you feel so inclined, please share with your friends!

3 Sink Basin Dishwashing [Infographic]

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Step 1: Pre-Wash

Before starting the wash cycle in a 3 basin sink, you should try to scrape off as much food as possible in a waste bin or scrap container.  This will help keep the dish water cleaner, helping you save on detergents.

Step 2: Wash

Ensure that each basin is clean and sanitized prior to filling them.

The 1st basin is for washing with hot, soapy water at a range of 95⁰ to 120⁰ F.  You should have a good scrub brush and scouring pad on hand.  If you’re only cleaning glasses, a submersible glass washer will make things easier.   Remember to replace with clean, hot, soapy water when it begins to drop temperature or becomes dirty.

Step 3: Rinse

The 2nd basin should be filled with hot water at around 120⁰ F.  The cleaned dish should be rinsed off in the water until no more detergent is present on the dish.  If it becomes hard to get the detergent off, you should refill the basin with new, hot water.

Step 4: Sanitize

To be thoroughly cleaned, health code requires this last step, which is the sanitize stage.  The 3rd basin should be filled with sanitizer to ensure bacteria are removed from all surfaces.  The dish should soak in a mixture of sanitizer mix for at least one minute.  pH test kits are a great way to ensure the sanitizer is mixed to manufacturers standards.  If you’re using chlorine as your sanitizer, you should check the pH levels often, as chlorine will evaporate over time.

Step 5: Air Dry

The only recommended way for dry the dish is by air drying – no wiping the dish down with a towel, just let it air dry.

Tips

  • Never use your 3 sink basin as a mop or hand washing station.
  • The 3 sink basin should be refilled every 4-hours and cleaned between each refill.  You can create a schedule for testing and changing water to make it easier for staff to remember.  Simply use a dry erase pen on laminated paper with a simple to read checklist that includes the pH test, when to refill/change water, etc.
  • Before choosing a scrubbing pad, check with the business to see what is preferred.  Some companies/restaurants do not allow steel or copper pads to be used as they tend to breakdown over extreme use and can create small shavings that are left behind on the “clean” pan.

 

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Safe Temperatures for Food Service [INFOGRAPHIC]

Safe Temperatures for Food Service [INFOGRAPHIC]

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Keeping food at safe temperatures is vital for the health of your customers and your restaurant. With this handy infographic learn safe temperature zones for everything from refrigerator and freezer temps to thawing and cooking temps. And it’s all free, just for you to print it and display it in your kitchen.

Stay safe, folks!

P.S. Need a new thermometer? You can’t go wrong with Comark.

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Food Allergy Awareness in the Restaurant

Food Allergy Awareness in the Restaurant

In honor of Food Allergy Awareness Week, May 11-17, 2014, I thought I’d pull together some food allergy facts and how you can better prepare your restaurant for food allergen customers.

First, I think I’ll start with my own story on food allergies.  My youngest son has a severe allergy to tree nuts, pistachios and cashews specifically, but we stay away from all nuts because we’ve experienced the unfortunate of him going into anaphylactic shock.

We were at our favorite summer place to grab a quick snack and take a scroll down the Grand Lake beach. At this time, we knew that my son had an allergen to tree nuts, but he was fine with peanuts, so when my mother ordered herself an ice cream sundae with peanuts, she double checked with the counter attendant that there was indeed no tree nuts in those peanuts.  The girl confirmed, and we set off for our stroll down the beach.  At one point my little one wanted to taste Grandma’s ice cream, and she obliged.  Within seconds of him swallowing down a spoonful of that ice cream, his throat started to close.  We were miles away from the hospital, but had our Epipen Junior on us.  We gave him a full dose and began our way to the hospital.  Before the shot, he was gasping for air, and it was quite frightening.  He was terrified, we were scared, and I just kept holding him on the way to the hospital.  The good news is that he’s fine now, but he won’t touch a single nut ever again – not even peanuts.

The reason I tell you this story is so that you get an understanding of the importance of checking food labels so that you know where it comes from.  Odds are those peanuts had listed on the back that it was made in the same factory as tree nuts, and that’s why my little one had an allergic reaction.  In some cases, people may choose to sue for incidences like this, we didn’t, but it could happen, which is why it’s important to know what is in each and every ingredient that you serve to your patrons.

A Background on Food Allergies

You may have a basic understanding of what allergies are, but to define how and why the body reacts the way it does is quite intense.  If a food is consumed that the person is allergic to, their immune system kicks in to protect them.  Think of the food as a germ or virus trying to attack the immune system.  Now, for most of us, our immune system knows that it’s just a food, but for those with allergies, their immune system has an abnormal response to the food protein and goes into full attack mode.  Odd, right?  When the bad food protein enters the body, histamine and other chemicals are released to help defend the body.

There is no cure for food allergies, but for most mild allergies, children can grow out of them.  However, for the top 8 food allergens (that contribute to 90% of the total allergies across the nation), those typically stay with the child for life.  The only way to prevent an attack is to strictly avoid the food, which also means being aware of cross-contamination, breathing the food in the air (mainly with dust in the air with nut allergies), and sometimes even touching the food.

Food Allergies by the Numbers

Speaking of those top 8 food allergens, the list is: milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish.  According to the NRA, nuts cause 4 out of 5 food allergy fatalities, and twice as many people are allergic to shellfish as nuts.

According to FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education), the organization that helps to promote food allergens in businesses such as institutions, restaurants, and the corporate world, and who puts on the annual Food Allergy Awareness week, 4% of the US population (or 12 million people: 1 in 25) have a food allergy.  Children are the largest group affected by allergies, with 1 in 13 kids being affected – that’s about 2 kids per classroom on average.

Food Allergies in the Food Service Industry

There are many organizations out there to help your food service business learn how to appropriately handle allergens and how to train your staff. It is your duty to know what ingredients are in each food item you serve, before there’s a bigger issue at hand.

A few resources to help with training, include:

There’s also this handy site to help people with food allergens find safe places to eat.  This is a great opportunity for you to list your restaurant if you think you’re a fit.  It’ll help drive business, get links back to your site, and you’ll be helping the allergen community learn more about your business.

In closing, I’d like to mention that most families that have an allergy sufferer joining them when dining out, do take precautions before picking just any restaurant or any dish.  They don’t want to go through the hell of feeling their throat close up and not knowing if they’ll recover.  Believe me, we take every step we can to ensure our little one stays out of harm’s way; in fact, using sites like I mentioned above to find an allergy free restaurant is what families would typically do; if not just call the restaurant ahead of time.  When your life revolves around having an attack because of something as tiny as a nut, you definitely do your research before taking a bite.  Here’s a great example of a dining out guide that most allergy sufferers follow before choosing a place to eat.

Let me know, how does your restaurant prep for food allergens?  Do you use the purple coded knives and cutting boards to help separate?

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Shopping Guide: Spring Cleaning for Restaurants

Shopping Guide: Spring Cleaning for RestaurantsThroughout most of human history, spring has been a time for deep cleaning. As the air warms and winter recedes, now is the perfect time to roll up your sleeves and give your restaurant a thorough tip-to-toe scrubbing. We have some products that will help your spring cleaning efforts!

Floor Rescue
In the winter months, customers track in snow, gravel and caustic ice-melt, and floors take a severe beating. Early spring is the perfect time to give them some extra attention. Giving your carpet, wood and tile floors some extra love will increase their longevity and keep your restaurant looking sharp.

Restroom Revitalization
Get this: according to a poll by Harris Interactive, 88 percent of people who encounter a dirty restroom think that’s how the kitchen looks too. Yikes! But you already knew that, and you obviously clean your bathrooms daily. But sometimes it’s smart to invest in new equipment and supplies to make your job a little easier! Tundra has what you need to clean restrooms and comfort your patrons.

Shopping Guide: Spring Cleaning for RestaurantsWindow Washing
How can you expect to lure hungry passersby if your windows are coated with dirt, dust and grime? Clean windows are incredibly important if your restaurant relies on foot traffic. This window washing kit from Continental Manufacturing will help you snag more walk-ins as the weather warms up.

Safety Check
Spring is a good time to make sure you’re fully stocked on first aid supplies, because creating a safe environment for your employees isn’t just a legal obligation—it’s the right thing to do!

Shopping Guide: Spring Cleaning for RestaurantsGreen Cleaning
A month from now we’ll celebrate Earth Day. What is your restaurant doing to minimize its impact on future generations? Cleaning agents can be pretty nasty, so if you’re looking to be a little kinder to the environment, switching to eco-friendly products is a great place to start.

The bonus to going green? Happy patrons. According to one survey, 84 percent of U.S. adults prefer to do business with a company that uses environmentally-friendly products and practices.

Quick Spring Cleaning Checklist for Restaurants

Here’s a quick list of some common things to inspect and consider replacing when undergoing spring cleaning:

  • Door/Refrigeration Gaskets
  • Wire and Refrigeration Shelves
  • Food Bins and Storage Tubs
  • Grease Baffles
  • Burners and Burner Grates
  • Ice/H2O Filters
  • Floor Mats
  • Walk-in Vinyl Drapes/Air Curtains
  • Plumbing Fixtures

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Fryer Safety Checklist

Fryer Safety Checklist

Fortunately, most modern fryers are simple and easy to use. But whenever you add 400°F oil to the mix, extreme caution is essential. What follows is a list of things to consider (please see our disclaimer at the end) if your commercial kitchen prepares deep-fried food.

Non-Slip Footwear

Slip- and Grease-Resistant Floor Mats

Personal Safety Equipment

Ladders and Footstools

Kitchen Layout and Storage

  • Set up work areas to reduce the need for reaching and climbing near exposed oil. Store frequently used items on accessible shelves away from fryers.
  • Keep fryer area free of clutter, electrical cords, etc.
  • Lay out kitchen without tight or blind corners to avoid collisions; provide enough work space to avoid collisions near fryer.

Education and Training

  • Fryer training: develop strict staff training/mentoring procedures to ensure safe operation and maintenance of your fryers.
  • First aid training: first aid is the best way to minimize the damage caused by a fryer-related burns and carbon monoxide exposure. Ensure there is at least one first-aid trained staff member on duty at all times.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning awareness: educate staff about the specific procedures needed to prevent and respond to the symptoms of CO poisoning.

Quality Equipment and Oil

Safe Cleaning and Grease Transport

  • Clean fryers in the morning, when fryer oils have cooled.
  • Establish clear safety procedures for the transport of used fryer oil.

Note: this fryer safety checklist is NOT exhaustive. Be sure to understand and comply with all relevant occupational safety regulations, and read our Terms of Use before acting on any of the recommendations listed here.

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Are You Ready to Go Lead Free in 2014?

Are You Ready to Go Lead Free in 2014?

The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act takes effect Jan. 4, 2014. Are you ready?

Under the act, signed by Congress three years ago, “lead free” will be redefined as “not more than a weighted average of 0.25 percent lead when used with respect to the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing fittings, and fixtures.”

This is a significant change, folks! The maximum lead content of plumbing products used to be 8.0 percent. When the law takes effect on Jan. 4, it will be illegal to sell or install products that exceed 0.25 percent lead.

If you live in California, Vermont, Louisiana or Maryland, you’re ahead of the curve. These states have already implemented tougher safe drinking water standards with respect to plumbing materials. The new federal requirements play catch up to these states’ regulations.

The Good News

The act does NOT require existing infrastructure to be proactively replaced. But when you eventually need to repair or replace a pipe, fixture or fitting, you’re probably going to have to find a compliant replacement that has less than 0.25 percent lead.

Also, just to clarify, we’re talking about drinking water here. The act doesn’t apply to non-potable-water plumbing systems, such as industrial processing, irrigation or outdoor watering. The law also excludes toilets, urinals, fill valves, flushometer valves, tub fillers, or shower valves.

What to Look for When Buying New Plumbing Supplies

NSF International and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have responded to the updated definition with NSF/ANSI 372, which will go into effect in October 2013 as certification for the 2014 lead-content restrictions.

Are You Ready to Go Lead Free in 2014?

Helpful Resources

Want more information about the Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act and how it might impact your business? These sites can answer your questions.

This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.

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How to Clean a Commercial Griddle

How to Clean a Commercial Griddle

If you ask 10 professional chefs how to clean a commercial griddle, you’re likely to get 10 different answers.

There are several ways to skin the proverbial cat.

While cleaning methods and materials may differ from chef to chef, the goal is universal: a clean, sanitary griddle that allows for efficient cooking and delicious, unadulterated food.

What You’ll Need

It usually takes 5-10 minutes to properly clean a grill.

Directions

  • While the griddle is hot, pour 1 cup of cooking oil (you can use fryer oil) onto the griddle surface.
  • Scrub the griddle surface with a griddle brick/pumice stone, making small concentric circles—Miyagi style—until the surface is clean.
  • Scrape the oil into the grease trough and discard. Turn the griddle off.
  • Pour (carefully) 1 cup of club soda/seltzer water onto the still-hot griddle. The carbonation helps loosen and lift stubborn grease.
  • Scrub the griddle surface with your griddle brick/pumice stone, making small concentric circles until the surface is clean. Scrape remaining liquid into the trough for discarding.
  • Pour 1/2 cup of vinegar onto the griddle surface, spreading liquid out evenly across the entire surface and not allowing the vinegar to pool.
  • Rub the griddle surface with a rag, making small concentric circles until the surface is polished.
  • Scrape the vinegar into your grease trough and discard.
  • Rub the surface with a rag soaked in cooking oil to polish and reseason the steel.
  • Bask in the warm glow of your newly cleaned griddle.

“How Often Should I Clean My Commercial Griddle?”

If your griddle sees heavy daily use, we advise cleaning it daily. This will prevent flavor transfer, efficiency loss and unsightly burnt-oil-flake contamination.

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Why Dry Ice Burns

Why Dry Ice Burns

You’ve probably either heard of this strange phenomenon or experienced it yourself: ice that can burn you. While this may seem initially counter-intuitive, dry ice can indeed burn your skin, but probably not in the way that you think.

When you think of ice, what probably first comes to mind are the cold opaque cubes produced from your freezer or ice machine. Dry ice though is actually quite different from this kind of ice and is rarely found hanging around your average kitchen.  Commercially, dry ice is mostly used to preserve foods that need to be kept at a low temperature without the use of a mechanical device; for example, an ice cream cart uses dry ice to keep temperatures low enough to keep the product in a solid frozen state and to avoid the need for electrical output.  But dry ice must be handled properly and with adequate protective gear or you can get a nasty and painful burn.

A burn from dry ice is not like a burn from a fire or a stove-top; instead, a dry ice burn is actually an acute form of frostbite. It quickly freezes the skin, and can cause damage just from a mere moment of contact.  This is due, in large part, to the fact that dry ice is a solid form of the semi-hazardous chemical carbon dioxide. Since dry ice is made of CO2 and not water, its freezing point is lower than that of H2O, allowing it to become much, much colder than your typical water-based ice. While it’s not strictly considered a dangerous substance, you must go to certain lengths to protect yourself from the potential harm of dry ice. Avoid direct contact and keep in a well ventilated area so that when the dry ice sublimates into CO2, you don’t run the risk of asphyxiation.

In the last hundred years, dry ice has become primarily a synthesized  substance, created in laboratories for commercial and industrial reasons, but dry ice is actually a naturally occurring substance – and not only on Earth.  Photo-optics on Mars showed that polar ice caps consist partly of dry ice. While we once believed the ice caps found on Mars primarily consisted of carbon dioxide based dry ice, we’ve learned that the dry ice is more like a layer on top of water, preserving the liquid treasured beneath.  Another example of naturally occurring CO2 based ice on Mars is dry ice storms. Much like our own thunderstorms, dry ice storms blow freezing carbon dioxide about in a thrashing blizzard that would be deadly to any exploring astronaut.  While thoughts of terra-forming Mars are still centuries away, hazards like dry ice storms keep us thoroughly at bay from the thought of settling the red planet anytime in the near future.

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FOOD ALERT: Be Wary of These Controversial & Fake Foods

FOOD ALERT: Be Wary of These Controversial & Fake Foods

Americans have always invested an enormous amount of time and worry into what they eat. Every week there seems to be another menu item that is controversial and detested as unhealthy. Among the thousands of foods enjoyed by people from all over the world, here are a few that are considered to be the most controversial… fakes!

Fake Honey

Stroll through any supermarket in the US, and you’ll find a full display of shiny containers full of golden honey; however, according to Food Safety News, nearly 1/3 of that honey is likely to have been smuggled in from China – and laced with illegal and unsafe antibiotics. Knowing that the honey you buy is safe to eat is crucial for you and your family’s health.

Here are a few tips that I found for helping to sniff out the fakes:

  1. Check the label. Read the ingredients listed and check for additives. Any company selling honey is required to list any additives added – make sure you know exactly what’s listed on the label before you buy.
  2. Taste the honey. If it seems off, yet the label claims it’s pure, try the dissolving test to check for purity: Get a glass of water and one tablespoon of honey. Empty the honey into the water. If the honey is impure, it will dissolve in the water. If it is pure, the honey will stick together and sink as a solid clump to the bottom of the glass.

Fish Fakers

Mislabeled fish is also becoming a widespread problem. According to the US Food & Drug Administration, nearly 33% of fish purchased across the nation is not what it claims to be. Seafood fraud is not only hurting consumers pocket book, but also hurts honest vendors and fisherman throughout the supply chain.

  1. The biggest fake fish species being sold include cheaper fish like pollock and whiting – although they are being marked and sold as cod.
  2. Catfish has been found to be sold as grouper, while cod and tilapia are being sold as red snapper and salmon.
  3. Really impacting the consumer’s pocketbook is when cheaper, farm-raised fish is being substituted as wild caught fish.

The Taste Of Controversy

Environmentalists and animal rights activities alike are speaking up about these controversial foods.

Blue Fin Tuna is quickly being fished to extinction and has become a highly controversial food. Blue fin is highly prized by sushi chefs around the world. However, research has shown that Blue Fin has become extinct in the Black Sea and continues to be fished in a sustainable way in other parts of the world.

Turtle is considered a delicacy in Asia and Eastern US. Most commonly found in soup, the controversy around this food is that many of the species being harvested for human food are endangered. Aside from endangerment, turtle is usually seen as part of the ‘pet’ category rather than a food category.

Horse-meat is popular in Asia, Europe and South America, and over the past 5-10 years, horse-meat has quickly become more of an acceptable consumable meat worldwide. The controversy surrounding horse-meat is that many people see horses as pets or companions, rather than food. Farms producing horses specifically for the purpose of consumption are becoming more popular and are often compared to farms that raise cows and chickens.

Dolphin activists claim that the practices in catching dolphins are inhumane. Dolphins are caught, hooked, and gutted while still alive. Dolphin meat also contains more mercury than most fish, which is poisionous to humans.  Dolphin is another fish type that is often mislabeled and sold as another fish type.

Shark Fin, like Dolphin, is resulting in a declining population for sharks. The practice of shark finning is not regulated and is seen as very cruel, because in many cases live sharks are captured at sea, their fins cut off, and then they are returned to the sea fin-less.  The sharks often die because they can’t swim properly. Both the humane treatment of animal life and sustainability play a role with shark fin.

My findings in writing this article have led me down a road to ask:

  • Whose responsibility is it to regulate the foods that are being sold across the nation?
  • Does the consumer play a role in knowing where their food comes from and how it was raised or grown?

Your comments are welcome.

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