Food handlers have a big responsibility in a restaurant. Customers trust food handlers to handle and prepare their food with care, without harmful bacteria or contamination. The level of caution that food handlers practice often determines the quality of the dish and overall experience for the customer.
With customer awareness and health concerns on the rise, food handlers are increasingly under the public microscope. Whether it is a dirty uniform or a hair in the soup, customers hold food handlers responsible. Therefore, it is important for food handlers to be on top of their game.
The California Department of Public Health, or CDPH, implements food safety rules and programs and provides training for the food handlers in the state. Food handlers must earn a California Food Handler’s Card. The restaurants in the state need to abide by such conditions in order to operate within the law.
Food handlers need to be properly trained and equipped with the basics to provide safe food and quality service for customers.
This article will look at the top 5 tips for California Food Handlers:
1. Complete a California Food Handler’s Course
California law requires people who prepare, store, or serve food in a food facility, like a restaurant, to obtain a food handler card after taking a food safety training course and passing an exam. Individuals that work as food handlers are dealing with customers and food need to be thoroughly trained about the importance of food safety and safe practices.
An effective food safety course entails an overview of California food safety regulations, issues faced when implementing food safety, and techniques that maintain a safe eating environment.
Food safety training enables California food handlers to:
- Demonstrate effective food handling techniques that promote food safety and cleanliness in food establishments.
- Practice safe and secure storage and preparation of meat, poultry, and vegetable items.
- Properly clean and sanitize materials and surfaces that come in contact with food.
- Recognize foodborne illnesses, biohazards, and signs of food spoilage.
- Prevent food contamination
- Follow proper temperature control methods.
2. Keep Washing Your Hands
Food handlers are always busy on their feet, or should I say; their hands. Food handlers deal with different tasks every minute. From helping a lady pick up her bag to carrying hot steaks across the dining area, they are multi-taskers who make good use of their hands.
Changing tasks means constantly encountering new germs and bacteria. It’s crucial that food handlers wash their hands continuously when dealing with food items. Just rinsing their hands with water is not enough; California food handlers must thoroughly clean them as well.
Effective hand washing requires no less than 20 seconds of rubbing your hands with warm water and antibacterial soap. Servers, cooks, and kitchen staff should be sure to wash their wrists, palms, back of hands, and under the fingernails. Then rinse. This hand washing task should be repeated after any food handler uses the bathroom, handles raw meat, touches dirty dishes or even enjoys a cigarette during their break.
3. Do Not Compromise on Cleanliness
Washing your hands is not the only action food handlers can take to ensure the cleanliness of their restaurant. During rush hour, cutting corners on food safety practices is tempting, but no matter the number of waiting customers, cleanliness should always come first.
Keep in mind, getting a customer sick because of contaminated food not only reflects bad on the restaurant, but could also lead to disciplinary actions taken against the food handler responsible.
Some of the tips for maintaining hygiene are:
- Food should be cleared immediately. Dirty dishes and food residue should never come into contact with freshly cooked food.
- Wipe down all counters throughout the day, removing old food particles or remaining liquid.
- Do the dishes often. Ensure that knives, plates, and cooking utensils are always clean and sanitized.
4. Properly Monitor Food Temperatures
The difference between an excellent steak and an overcooked disappointment is a few degrees.
To produce safe, tasty meat, food handlers need to ensure it is cooked at the correct internal temperature and served quickly.
Always utilize a food thermometer and use the following guidelines to maintain the right temperature:
- 160°F: Any ground meats such as beef, turkey, or chicken
- 165°F: Poultry, stuffed foods, casseroles, and microwaved animal products
- 155°F: Sausage and hamburger
- 145°F: Eggs, pork, fish, and beef
- 135°F: Vegetables that will be kept warm, and packaged and ready-to-eat foods like soup or hot dogs.
5. Keep Everything Covered
Whether its dishes, hair, bare hands, or feet – cover everything.
Gloves are a must in any eatery as they serve multiple purposes. Not only do they protect your hands, but they also save time that would be wasted washing hands while handling numerous meals during a rush.
Although some chefs dislike gloves, many restaurants in California require their line cooks and chefs to hands covered while handling and preparing foods.
One important point to note is gloves also catch germs and bacteria. Therefore, regular disposal is necessary, especially after coming contact with something that can contain germs.
Food handlers are entrusted to provide safe, delicious food. While the taste rests in the chef’s hands, following these tips will ensure the food is safe and the establishment is hygienic. The best way to protect customers is taking your time. Take the time to learn safe practices, wash your hands, keep kitchens clean, monitor temperatures, and prevent cross contamination.