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

Food Safety Tips: Vacuum Breakers & Backflow Valves

Vacuum breakers and backflow valves are an easy thing to overlook in your restaurant’s kitchen.  They are relatively easy to install, and since health inspectors are going to require them, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take the time to make sure you have some of these simple plumbing parts installed correctly in the right places in your establishment.

First things first: what the heck is a vacuum breaker and a backflow valve?  Both prevent potentially contaminated water from flowing back up a hose, faucet, pre-rinse, or toilet fixture and into the potable water system in your restaurant.  Waste and sewage water is rich with microorganisms that can quickly infect an entire water supply, and that’s why these plumbing valves are so important.

A Vacuum Breaker

Vacuum Breaker

Vacuum breakers a rubber diaphragm inside this valve opens when water goes out but seals shut when a faucet is turned off, which prevents a vacuum inside the line to suck contaminated water back up into the plumbing system.  Over time this rubber diaphragm wears out and loses its seal.  Fortunately this is easy to replace, saving you the expense of ordering a whole new vacuum breaker.

Check with your local health department for a complete list of places where a vacuum breaker is required.  The most common fixtures are mop bucket sinks, pot filler assemblies, commercial dishwasher lines, pre-rinse assemblies (in addition to a continuous pressure backflow valve), and toilets and urinals.

Backflow Preventer

Backflow Preventer

Backflow valves – these metal valves have a spring loaded ball inside that is forced open when water pressure flows out of the line.  When a faucet or pre-rinse is shut off, the ball seals shut, preventing any contaminated water from flowing back up the line.  A backflow valve is most commonly seen on pre-rinse assemblies and faucets with a hose attachment.  Note that most pre-rinses should also have a vacuum breaker.

These simple plumbing parts can play a big role when it comes to passing a health inspection, so make sure your kitchen is up to code.  Even more importantly, these valves prevent contaminants from getting into your water supply, which could cause a huge headache down the road.  An ounce of prevention is worth its weight in gold when it comes to vacuum breakers and backflow valves.

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Go Green, Save Money, Serve Better Produce

Make Your Restaurant Green With Saf-T-WashAs the past few years have shown, produce can be a food safety liability for anyone in the food service industry. Easy spoilage also makes produce a very difficult item to manage on your inventory. On top of all that, produce takes a lot of time and labor to prep.

Yet fruits and vegetables are also a vital ingredient on any restaurant’s menu, and most of you out there have mastered the fine art of serving clean, healthy, fresh produce to your customers on a daily basis. Mastery of that art comes at a price, however. Chemical sanitization, cleaning, and spoilage all cost money and cut into your food margin.

Locally and organically produced produce don’t help your cause any either. Typically local and organic produce spoils faster even though it arrives fresher. And nobody wants their organic produce sanitized with chemicals after arriving through your back door.

There must be some kind of product that addresses all the issues you have dealing with fresh produce in your restaurant.

Well, I’m glad you asked.

The Saf-T-Wash by San Jamar addresses all three of your main food service sanitation concerns when it comes to produce: sanitation, freshness, and spoilage. How does it work? The Saf-T-Wash adds ozone to water and attaches directly to the faucet in your kitchen, allowing you to wash fresh produce and sanitize it at the same time while extending shelf life.

Ozone is a natural element that’s been used for years in the bottled water industry to kill pathogens during the bottling process. Ozone kills at least 99.99% of the major pathogens found in produce within two minutes of exposure, which is significantly more effective than a chlorine treatment. And ozone removes enzymes from fruits and vegetables that cause spoilage, improving shelf life after prep has been completed.

You also don’t have to use as much ozone treated water to clean produce during prep, saving you money on water. In general, treating your fruits and vegetables with ozone treated water is a more effective and efficient way to prep produce for serving. According to San Jamar, the money saved in water and labor savings plus reduced spoilage means the Saf-T-Wash pays for itself in 3 months.

Using the Saf-T-Wash also gives you a unique opportunity to market your restaurant as a green operation to your customers. Despite the economic downturn, studies still return consistent results when it comes to customer attitudes regarding green practices in food safety: consumers want more of it and they like restaurants that participate in green programs. If you’re serving organically grown produce washed with ozone treated water, you’re creating a great opportunity to add value to your restaurant brand in the eyes of your customer. And in an age of price wars and increasingly brutal competition, anything that sets you apart and adds value is something that might give you an extra edge over your competition.

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Food Safety At Turley’s Part 2: Staff Training

Turley's restaurant in Boulder, CO

Turley’s restaurant in Boulder, CO

Earlier this week I ventured to get a feel for practical food safety practices in a real restaurant.  Turley’s, an iconic Boulder, CO eatery known for its eclectic menu full of healthy eating and fantastic international flavors, was kind enough to spend some time talking to me about their food safety program.

I sat down with second and third generation Turley family members and managers David and Sandy for an extremely informative chat on practical food safety applications in a working restaurant.  What I soon discovered is that procedures and guidelines are all well and good, but if you don’t promote a food-safe culture through staff training and pure vigilance, all those rules aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

Turley’s staff start their food safety education with a S.T.A.R. (Sanitation Training Assistance for Restaurateurs) course through the Boulder CountyServSafe Office of Public Health.  The course covers six fundamental food safety concerns: viruses and bacteria, potentially hazardous foods, time/temperature control, personal hygiene, cross-contamination, and sanitization.  Turley’s management are also ServSafe certified.

However, it’s not enough to just teach staff about food safety issues once and then get on with the hectic life of the restaurant business.  “We have goals, not rules,” says David, “And it’s an ongoing thing.  We’ve got to be a food safety driver, because if you’re not willing to commit, the issue just goes away.”

Turley’s keeps food safety front and center by carrying out campaigns on specific topics, starting with the daily shift meetings.  One recent campaign focused on disposable gloves for staff working the line.  Because cross-contamination and hand washing are vital concerns, but also extremely hard for management to constantly police, disposable gloves are required for anybody on the line in Turley’s kitchen.

At first, everyone wore the gloves with few exceptions.  But as time went on, busy kitchen staff sometimes forgot to put on the gloves while prepping food, and the disposable glove policy started going by the wayside.

Turley’s management responded with a campaign, reminding kitchen staff at the shift meetings to wear their gloves at all times on the line, and soon the repetition of the campaign turned glove wearing into second nature for the staff.

David sometimes feels like a broken record, but the harping has paid off, and the management’s commitment to following through on campaigns is a vital follow up to the basic training courses.

Food safety campaigns for the front of the house are a little more difficult because turnover in a college town like Boulder makes training new staff a constant chore.  Turley’s management continues to focus on education, however, and take a mentoring rather than policing approach.  Every shift meeting presents a new challenge and a new opportunity for improving the awareness of the front of house staff.

The evolution theme is probably the most important lesson about an effective food safety program that I took away from Turley’s.  Even as I learned about all the things the restaurant does every day to manage food safety, the management was already looking ahead to the next campaign, and the next strategy.

David is thinking about conducting self inspections: unannounced walk-throughs of the entire restaurant with his health inspector cap on, looking for things that are hard for management in their normal roles to catch.  It’s just one more way Turley’s works to keep the restaurant in top shape for their customers every day.

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Food Safety Tips: Safe Seafood

Fresh SeafoodFresh seafood will always sell well in your restaurant, and for many businesses it’s a staple item on the menu.  Making sure the seafood you serve is safe requires some careful maintenance and preparation, and it’s good to develop some strategies for ensuring the seafood you serve is safe.  More than likely you already have guidelines in place for serving other types of protein like beef, chicken, and pork.  Preparing seafood requires many of the same precautions along with some additional strategies to make sure you serve safe seafood every time.

Some food safety tips for serving seafood:

Know your distributor.  Always buy seafood from a reputable distributor whom you can trust to deliver a product that has been properly maintained.  This means fresh seafood and shellfish are kept at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower throughout the entire food distribution process.  You have to be able to trust that the distributor is on top of this before the product reaches your door.  Be sure to shop around for several different distributors and weigh price versus quality until you find the right balance between the two.  If you have any doubts, ask to see certified product tags.

Manage raw product.  Once that seafood or shellfish comes through your door, managing it properly is your responsibility.  Store fresh product at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower as soon as possible after you receive it.  Seafood should be stored in an airtight container or using cling wrap until it is ready to be prepared.  Use a thermometer or a data logger to track the temperature of your seafood to make sure it is staying out of the “danger zone” between 41 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Store live shellfish, lobsters, and crabs in a ventilated container covered with a damp cloth.  Storing live shellfish in salt water shortens their lifespan, and using fresh water will kill them outright, so take care when deciding how to store live shellfish.

Before you use seafood touch and smell it.  Assuming you have been tracking temperature and know that the seafood product you are about to prepare has been maintained below 41 degrees Fahrenheit, the fastest and easiest way to make sure the product is safe is by using your senses.  Clean, fresh seafood should have a mild smell.  A fishy or sour smell is a telltale sign of contamination.  Fresh seafood should also be soft yet firm to the touch.  A mushy or dry, hard feel also indicates contamination.

Avoid cross-contamination.  While preparing seafood product on the line, take care to avoid cross-contamination.  The best way to accomplish this is to use color coded knives and cutting boards during preparation.  That way your kitchen staff knows which knives and cutting boards have been used on raw seafood and can avoid using them on other items being prepared.  Also make sure your staff follows proper handwashing techniques and uses disposable gloves to avoid contamination during preparation.

Cook seafood to the proper temperature.  All seafood served in your restaurant should reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit when cooked.

California Rolls

Sushi and other seafood served raw require extra care

Serving sushi or other kinds of raw fish and seafood add a whole other element of risk to your customer.  If you do serve raw fish or shellfish, like oysters, the guidelines above that cover temperature, cross-contamination, and handwashing become even more important.  Also, many states require that seafood to be served as sushi must be commercially frozen first to kill harmful parasites and viruses that may be present.  Check with local and state laws to make sure you are in compliance.

Seafood can be a delicate product to store and prepare properly while avoiding contamination, but a little extra work and some attention to detail can yield some very popular dishes for your menu that will have customers coming back for more.  Having a clear set of guidelines for maintaining the food safety of seafood products is only half the battle.

The real fight is training and educating your staff on following these guidelines and then conducting regular quality control measures to ensure the standards you have set are being met.  Being vigilant about food safety procedures is the only way to achieve real success in any food safety program, whether it’s for seafood or any other item on your menu.

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HACCP Principle 6 – Ongoing Verification

HACCP Principle 6 - Ongoing VerificationNow we are getting into the multiple levels of control that make a HACCP program so effective.  Level 1 is monitoring: people who are directly involved with the food product at the Critical Control Point checking to make sure Critical Limits are met.  These people have taken direct responsibility for the Critical Limits assigned to them and have been given clear guidelines on how often to monitor, what to monitor, and the corrective action to take if a Critical Limit is not met.

But how do you know for sure your monitors are carrying out their very important duties accurately?  Despite best intentions, human error is a very real possibility, and one the success of your HACCP program cannot afford to allow.  Principle 6 in the HACCP program adds another layer to the safety net designed to catch every violation of a Critical Limit.

Verification is different from monitoring in two important ways: it should be carried out by someone other than the monitor, and it should follow a less frequent but very thorough schedule than monitoring.

Monitoring is carried out multiple times every day.  Verification should be carried out maybe once a day or once a week.  The person conducting verification should keep the following in mind:

Observe monitoring as it is being carried out in real time.  This allows you to see if actual situations allow for the monitoring guidelines to be followed properly.  It also allows the verifier to see if the monitor is doing things the right way.

Review records and ensure they are being recorded accurately and consistently.  It’s all too easy for someone in a monitoring position to flub a temperature record in the interest of time during a busy rush.  More innocent mistakes are also entirely possible, like reading a thermometer incorrectly or placing the instrument in the wrong place when trying to read temperature.  These mistakes will be revealed as you check records against observations.

Check actual practices against guidelines.  What’s different between the guidelines and practice?  Is there a problem with the guidelines or with the practice?  Remember, your HACCP program should be an evolving creature, not a rigid set of rules.

Were corrective actions carried out properly?  When a corrective action needed to be taken, was it identified correctly and in a timely manner?  Was the corrective action successful?  Was it recorded properly?

Is monitoring equipment up to snuff?  Finally, make sure the tools your monitors use are properly calibrated and in good working order.  There’s no point in monitoring with a broken thermometer or one that’s 15 degrees off.

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CheckWise Brings Food Safety to the Palm of Your Hand

Fast paced and often stress-inducing, a day in the life of a restaurant operator is never dull. From the morning’s breakfast and brunch regulars to the evening’s one-time eatery explorers you and your staff are constantly moving orders while trying to find ways to efficiently cut corners without jeopardizing quality. If that means installing top of the line restaurant equipment, integrating new technologies into your day-to-day, or simply tracking waste management it’s the little improvements that go a long way.

Safe temperature zones help staff immediately recognize unsafe conditions

Safe temperature zones help staff immediately recognize unsafe conditions

Luckily there are innovators out there like Jon Christensen who have your establishment’s needs in mind. Taking everyday routines and adding a digital ingredient to the mix, Christensen has developed an app that makes food safety easy. The app is called CheckWise and it replaces the pen and paper method of tracking your food safety procedures with an everything-in-your-hand alternative.

Currently in the pilot program stage, CheckWise is designed to outline and initiate food safety checklists that managers would regularly assign to their staff via paper instructions and a clipboard. Unlike a clipboard and paper instructions though CheckWise has a treasure trove of features meant to enhance your food safety program.

Tracking food safety throughout the day couldn’t be easier using CheckWise. From a separate web application management can:

•    create checklists for staff members & push those checklists down to mobile devices
•    set food “safe zone” temperatures
•    assign corrective action prompts like “call manager” or “dispose of item”
•    schedule checklist to be completed once or multiple times a day
•    monitor completion of checklists in real-time
•    print daily and customized summary reports

“With the pilot program we are looking to get CheckWise to one or two participants in each of the markets we want to enter,” Christensen says. “Our pilot customers have the opportunity to influence some of the upcoming features of the product by giving us feedback on what they need most. It’s a chance for [participants] to use the product for free for a couple months to make sure it is something that helps them.”

Christensen hopes to see CheckWise used in the QSR, table service, grocery, hospital, university, and K-12 markets. The service is optimized for the iPod touch, the company’s choice for the least expensive, most reliable device of its kind, but can be used on other Apple products with IOS 5 like the iPhone, and iPad. Slated to be released as a free app with a charge for services, CheckWise is set to revolutionize the in-house approach to food safety.

Food safety should be at the top of your list in regards to importance

Food safety should be at the top of your list in regards to importance

“Right now we’re looking at $25 per device per month,” Christensen explains. “We definitely want some feedback from potential customers to make sure this pricing will work for everyone, but we don’t believe in being secretive about pricing. If the service isn’t worth what we’re asking for then we have some looking in the mirror to do.”

The in-the-works pricing structure also takes into account businesses that might need multiple devices. Whereas a small restaurant may only need one, a large grocery store may need a handful of handhelds to accommodate more staff.

The technology looks promising, and the possibilities for individual industry use uncover a number of inherent benefits. By putting the opportunity to test and contribute to the evolution of CheckWise on the table for free Christensen is letting potential customers weigh in on what a digitally optimized food safety program could look like.

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A Complete Guide To HACCP Food Safety

If you’re looking to implement a HACCP food safety program, this series of Back Burner posts will help you get started.  If you’re looking for ways to improve your existing food safety program, this is also a great place to start.  Food safety is a critical part of your food service business, and over the years, HACCP has proven itself to be one of the most effective ways to ensure your customers eat good food in your restaurant every single time.

This guide will walk you through the 7 HACCP principles one by one and will also cover supplemental information like Prerequisite Programs.  Get started on your HACCP program today:HACCP Food Safety

1.  HACCP Principle 1 – An introduction and understanding the hazards and risk factors present in your restaurant.

2.  HACCP Principle 2 – The Difference Between CCP & SOP – Some things in your food safety program will be covered by your HACCP, while other things need to be established as Standard Operating Procedure.  Learn how to organize food safety tasks here.

3.  HACCP Principle 3 – Set Critical Limits – A critical limit is the minimum or maximum temperature food product must reach to stay out of the temperature danger zone where bacteria and pathogens can grow.

4.  HACCP Principle 4– Establish Monitoring Procedures – Critical limits don’t do you a bit of good if you don’t monitor your operation and determine they are actually being met in practice, not just in theory.

5.  HACCP Principle 5– Develop Corrective Actions – Critical limits are worthless without monitoring, and monitoring is worthless without a plan to take corrective action when monitoring finds problems in your HACCP program.

6.  HACCP Principle 6 – Ongoing Verification – The secret to a successful HACCP program is developing multiple layers of quality control that ensure the standards you set in Principle 3 are met on a consistent basis.  Ongoing verification is another layer in the monitoring process.Keep Good HACCP Food Safety Records

7.  HACCP Principle 7– Keep Good Records – All that monitoring won’t help you if someone accuses your business of sickening them and you don’t have records of what you’ve been doing with your HACCP program.  Good records also help you every time the healt inspector arrives, so make sure you record the information you collect while monitoring your HACCP program.

8.  Prerequisite Programs– The essential partner to any HACCP food safety program is the Standard Operating Procedures that promote a clean and sanitary kitchen, like handwashing.  Get some prerequisite tips here.

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When, Where, And What To Expect From A Health Inspection

Restaurant Health InspectionsI 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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HACCP Principle 2 – Defining Processes

HACCP Food SafetyAs we discussed in the last HACCP post, you need to organize the hazards and critical control points at every step in the food preparation process.

So how do you decide which points are a CCP and which can be handled by a Prerequisite Program?  A good strategy is to analyze the food preparation process for each item on your menu.  There are a few exceptions, but in general most menu items can be divided into three groups (please keep in mind that the CCPs listed below are the most common examples only; actual CCPs may vary depending on the situation):

Process 1:  No cook step (example: receive – store – prepare – hold – serve).  This food is served cold and is never cooked.  That means this food never goes through a “kill step” before it is served to customers, meaning the process of cooking the food, which kills most biological hazards, never occurs.

Some examples of Process 1 foods: oysters, salads, fresh vegetables, sushi, ceviche, shashimi.

The CCPs for Process 1 are:

Receiving temp and certification tag.  These foods must arrive below 41 degrees Fahrenheit.  Many types of food in this category, especially shellfish, must arrive with a tag certifying its freshness, and the tag must be retained as proof.

Cold holding.  While the product is stored or after it has been prepared and is waiting to be served, it must remain below the 41 degree threshold to limit bacterial growth.

Date marking.  Even if these foods are stored at the proper temperature, as time passes the risk of contamination grows.  A system must be in place to dispose of product that has sat unused too long.

Freezing.  Some types of food in this category, especially sushi, ceviche, and shashimi, require freezing to kill potential parasites.

It’s important to note that several other risks and hazards apply to Process 1 foods, like proper employee hygiene, properly sanitized food preparation equipment and utensils, etc.  Those more general factors should be addressed in the SOPs of your Prerequisite Program.  The above CCPs are specific to these Process 1 foods and therefore require that you set specific Critical Limits for each risk factor (see Step 3 for more information).

Process 2:  Same day service (example: receive – store – prepare – cook – hold – serve).  This process involves cooking food before it is served, which means it takes one trip through the danger zone (see Step 3 for more information), and potential biological hazards are exposed to a kill step before the food is served.

Some examples: hamburgers, steak, various fish species.

The CCP’s for Process 2 are:

Cooking.  Depending on the type of food, it must be cooked to a specific temperature for a specified amount of time.  For example, hamburger should be cooked at 155 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds, while chicken should be cooked at 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds.  See Step 3: Critical Limits for more information.

Hot holding or using time.  After this food is cooked, it should be held hot until served or served in a specified amount of time before disposal to prevent contamination.

Please note that some types of seafood require additional CCP’s like cold holding and receiving certification because of the risk of the buildup of bacteria-related toxins that are not removed by the cooking “kill step.”  Consult with your local Board of Health for more information.

Process 3:  Complex food preparation (example: receive – store – prepare – cook – cool – reheat – hot hold – serve).  These foods pass through the danger zone (see Step 3 for more information) more than once before they are served to the customer and therefore must have their temperature strictly monitored in order to prevent contamination.  Even though these foods pass through a cooking “kill step” more than once, the danger of “spore forming bacteria” (bacteria that leave behind spores that can survive the kill step and start reproducing again) presents a particular danger in this process because so much time passes between the time the food is first cooked and the time it is served to the customer.

Process 3 foods fall into two categories: foods that are mass produced in preparation for the next day’s business and foods that are cooked using Process 2 but are never served and thus end up back in cold holding.

The CCP’s for Process 3 are:

Cooking.  This CCP is identical to the Process 2 CCP above.  See step 3 for more information on Critical Limits.

Cooling.  After this food has been cooked and hot held, it must be cooled within a given timeframe to prevent bacteria from reproducing.  See step 3 for more information.

Hot and cold holding or using time.  Once cooked, these foods must maintain a certain temperature until cooled, and once cooled, they must maintain a certain temperature until they are reheated.

Date marking.  Even if these foods are stored at the proper temperature, as time passes the risk of contamination grows.  A system must be in place to dispose of product that has sat unused too long.

Reheating for hot holding.  The second time foods are heated, they need to be reheated to the proper temperature to ensure bacteria has been effectively eliminated.

Again, certain types of seafood may require additional CCPs due to the risk of bacteria-related toxin buildup.  Consult with your local Board of Health for more information.

Group the items on your menu according to the process they fit into above.  Once you have your menu items grouped, you can set definitive standards for time and temperature at every CCP not already covered by your Prerequisite Programs.

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The EndoTherm Thermometer: Does It Really Help You Save Energy and Improve Food Safety?

The EndoTherm ThermometerTo be honest, there has been a lot of skepticism among the people I have talked to in the restaurant supply business when they first encounter the EndoTherm Thermometer.  Maybe it’s the appearance: the oversized outer plastic shell, which houses a normal alcohol thermometer immersed in a special silicone gel, gives the impression of a child-safe toy, meant to be too big for choking.  Maybe it’s the purpose: the EndoTherm accurately reads food temperature rather than air temperature, which sounds a little hokey to the old hands in the industry.

So what is the EndoTherm all about, anyway?  Well, the official party line is that the gel around that regular alcohol thermometer mimics food product: when food freezes, the gel freezes, and the thermometer can therefore get an accurate reading of what’s going on inside your refrigerated product, as opposed to what the air around that product is doing.

Why is that good?  There are two official reasons:

1) Air temperature varies in refrigeration units, especially ones that are opened and closed on a regular basis, like display cases or prep tables.  A thermometer that only measure air temp is affected by how air is moving around the unit, and, especially if it’s at the back, away from the door, it could be reading colder than the food product sitting by the constantly opening door.  This could affect food safety, since it’s possible to have food sitting in the danger zone even though the air temp thermometer is saying everything is fine.

If you were to place a couple EndoTherm thermometers around your refrigeration unit, one right by the door and some others in the middle and at the back, you would know just how well food in different spots were holding temperature.

2) You might also have the opposite problem: you are running the unit too cold.  Again, airflow varies in any refrigeration unit and that can affect the air temp thermometer.  Warmer air coming in from the opened and closed door might be bumping your thermometer up a degree or two, causing you to turn the thermostat down to keep everything below 40 degrees.  And it’s possible that your food product is sitting at a very comfortable 35 degrees or so, unaffected by those little blasts of warm air.

Again, the placement of a few EndoTherms around the refrigeration unit might reveal that you can turn the thermostat up and still maintain food safety.  And every degree you turn up translates into an 8% savings on the energy usage for that unit.  Any restaurateur who has seen the electricity bill knows just how much money that means.

So maybe the EndoTherm isn’t so hokey after all.  This thermometer was dreamed up by two fairly famous inventors in England and apparently it has been all the rage over there, and is just now catching on in North America.  The reputation of the creators lends some credibility to the claim “accurately mimics food temperature.”

I think the jury is still out.  Skepticism dies hard.  I would love to hear from some people who have used the EndoTherm and have found it to be everything they ever dreamed of, and people who thought it really would be better as a kid’s toy.  If you have some real world experience with this thermometer, leave a comment below and tell us about it!

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