In the fast-paced world of restaurant management, food safety can sometimes feel like a complex puzzle. With myths and misconceptions lurking around every corner, it’s easy to get led astray, potentially jeopardizing your hard-earned reputation and customer trust. This is why ServSafe certification and food safety training for managers is so important. These programs aren’t just about learning the ropes. They’re about debunking pesky food safety myths that can cause problems in the kitchen, including:
1. Cooked Food Can’t Cause Food-Borne Illness
The belief that cooked food cannot cause foodborne illness is a dangerous misconception. Proper cooking indeed kills harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses, but it doesn’t make the food immune to future contamination. Once the food has been cooked, if it comes into contact with contaminated surfaces, utensils, or hands, it can get re-contaminated.
Moreover, improper storage of cooked food can also lead to bacterial growth. For instance, if cooked food is left at room temperature for too long, bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus can multiply rapidly leading to food poisoning.
In ServSafe courses, managers learn about the importance of proper food handling post-cooking, including the correct temperatures for storing cooked food to prevent bacterial growth.
2. Cleaning and Sanitizing are the Same Thing
While cleaning and sanitizing both contribute to a hygienic food preparation environment, they serve different purposes and are not interchangeable. Cleaning typically involves the use of soap and water to remove visible dirt, grease, and debris from surfaces and utensils. However, this process may not eliminate microscopic bacteria or viruses that may be present.
On the other hand, sanitizing is the process of reducing the number of bacteria and viruses on a clean surface to safe levels. This is usually done using heat (like in dishwashers) or chemicals (sanitizing solutions). In a restaurant setting, both cleaning and sanitizing are crucial to prevent cross-contamination and foodborne illnesses.
3. If Foods Look or Smell Okay, They’re Safe to Eat
This misconception can be particularly dangerous. While signs of spoilage like foul smell, change in color, or mold are easy to spot, some harmful bacteria do not alter the smell, taste, or appearance of food. For example, E.coli and Salmonella, two common bacteria causing foodborne illnesses, can multiply in food without changing its smell or appearance.
ServSafe courses educate managers about the limitations of sensory checks (smell, look, taste) for determining food safety. They also cover safe practices like maintaining the correct storage temperatures and using a first-in-first-out (FIFO) system to manage stock and reduce the risk of serving spoiled food.
4. Expiration Labels are Indicative of the Product’s Safety
Contrary to popular belief, expiration labels on food products are not always accurate indicators of safety. These dates often refer to the quality of the product, not its safety. Consuming food past its expiration date can sometimes be safe, but it can also pose health risks if harmful bacteria have grown.
For instance, perishable foods like meat, dairy, and eggs can harbor harmful bacteria, like Listeria, if consumed past their expiry dates. On the other hand, non-perishable items like canned goods or dry pasta may still be safe to consume past their expiration date, albeit with a potential compromise on quality.
Ensuring food safety in a restaurant goes beyond simple kitchen practices. It requires comprehensive knowledge and understanding of food safety principles. This is where Enderun Extension’s ServSafe® Food Protection Manager Training Course and Certification program comes in. By debunking common misconceptions, ServSafe courses provide managers with the necessary skills to maintain high food safety standards in their establishments.