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Tips for Taking Home Holiday Leftovers

How Safe is Your Stuffing?

One of the best perks of the holiday season is undoubtedly the leftovers that come with the time of year. They come with the territory of cooking large meals for family and friends, and who doesn’t love to send guests home with treats? It is easy to accidentally let the fruits of your labor spoil, but if you follow these tips, your holiday dinner can safely be lunch for the rest of the week!

First, Make sure food is cooked to a safe temperature the first time around. Under cooked food is the number one cause of food borne illness. When cooking raw meat, use a food thermometer to ensure the internal temperature is high enough to kill any harmful bacteria. According to the USDA, meat should be cooked at its thickest to the following temperatures:

  • Red Meats: minimum internal temperature of 145° degrees Fahrenheit

  • Ground Meats: minimum internal temperature of 160° degrees Fahrenheit

  • Poultry: minimum internal temperature of 165° degrees Fahrenheit

Second, follow safe handling practices when serving prepared food. Keep food from reaching the temperature “Danger Zone.” Bacteria grow most rapidly between 40 F and 140 F - it is best to keep prepared food out of this temperature range to prevent bacteria from growing.

Prepared cold foods should be kept at or below 40° F when serving. Put leftovers in the fridge within two hours of preparation, discard food that has been left out for over two hours (one hour for hotter environments like picnics) and keep food cold by serving in containers over beds of ice.

Finally, store and reheat leftovers safely. Wrap or cover leftovers in airtight containers - this will help keep bacteria out. You can store these leftovers in the fridge for three to four days. If you don’t anticipate eating the leftovers right away, stick them in the freezer and keep them as long as you’d like. When reheating leftovers, use a food thermometer to ensure that your food reaches 165° F.

Turkey Tips!

(According to CDC)

  1. Thaw - Thaw your turkey in the refrigerator, breast side up. Allow one day of thawing for every 5 lbs. of frozen meat.

  2. Brine - Using a meat thermometer, soak your turkey in brine and ensure that the temperature of the brine does not rise past 40° F.

  3. Prep - Dry the skin of the bird to ensure even cooking. Rub butter all over the skin and season using your chosen herbs and spices.

  4. Stuff - If you are cooking stuffing, prepare it separately in a casserole dish to ensure that it is fully cooked.

    • If you decide to prepare stuffing inside the turkey, stuff it just before cooking and use a thermometer to make sure the stuffing reaches at least 165° F.

  5. Cook - Set the oven temperature to a minimum of 325° F, use an internal thermometer to ensure the temperature reaches at least 165° F at the thickest portions. Insert the thermometer into the breast, thigh and wing joint.

    • Let the turkey sit for 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving the bird. This will allow the meat to rest and will also allow the stuffing to continue to cook inside the turkey.


For more tips on safe food handling, visit the USDA’s food safety page or the gateway to Federal Food Safety Information.

Protect Your Customers and Your Brand

HOW FOOD SAFETY CAN NEGATIVELY IMPACT YOUR BUSINESS

Food safety should be top of mind for any food professional because it is always a potential risk. It can be a safety risk for consumers, but also poses a legitimate business threat for food producers and distributors. The CDC estimates that roughly one in six people get sick each year and over 3,000 deaths are caused by foodborne agents in the US alone.

When there is an outbreak connected to your operation, regardless of how the contamination occurred, your brand will be impacted. The value of your brand is vulnerable and it may take months for your reputation to recover. Not only can this have a seriously negative impact on customer trust and loyalty, but the effect on your bottom line can also be damaging.

Food safety and foodborne outbreaks are not something food professionals may think about, unfortunately, until it’s too late. Chipotle Mexican Grill’s business and reputation were severely impacted after a 2016 outbreak, and their business continues to suffer nearly two years later. In fact, just this last July, Chipotle shares dropped 12 percent in a single week following another outbreak

There are many ways to protect your customers and your brand by adopting best practices for food safety. The number one way to avoid foodborne pathogens is to store and prepare your food at the proper temperatures. For example. when preparing ground beef, the internal temperature at the thickest part of the meat needs to be 160 degrees Fahrenheit to kill lurking E. coli.

You can protect your product by monitoring the temperature using thermometers and data loggers like Digi Smart Solutions for Food Service. Automated products like these use technology to determine the internal temperature of your foods as well as the ambient atmosphere that your food is stored in. You can also use traditional methods like the slower lollipop thermometers along with pen and paper to record temperatures. It’s important to record temperature history in order to guarantee the safety of your product and to comply with mandatory handling procedures.

Protecting your food against cross-contamination by requiring your employees to follow basic safety precautions will help stop the spread of food pathogens like salmonella. Using new, clean tools to prepare different foods, washing cooking surfaces and your hands in between preparation steps can help as well. For example, after a chef has used a cutting board surface to prepare raw chicken, that surface must be thoroughly washed with soap and water before it can be used again for vegetables.

There are many ways you can improve the safety practices of your restaurants to protect customers from getting sick at your restaurant. Encouraging employees to stay home when they are sick, rather than coming in and “working through it,” will protect your patrons from contracting the same illness your employee may be carrying. This was a notorious downfall for Chipotle - both during the 2016 outbreaks and in their most recent norovirus outbreak this past July in Virginia. Enforcing proper hygiene practices among your employees such as hand washing rules and glove wearing when handling food will further protect your customers if an employee is bringing an illness to work.

How Preventive Controls Go Beyond Traditional HACCP:

If you’re familiar with the processing of juice, seafood, meat, or poultry, HACCP is the risk-based preventive food safety system you know and love. And although historically not required, many other types of food commodities have used HACCP, either to satisfy customer requirements or to achieve a third-party certification. I have heard many people express the notion that “well I have a HACCP plan, so I’m good”. But in reading the regulation (21 CFR Part 117), I think there is more to it than just considering the biological, chemical and physical hazards associated with the product and the process. 

Traditionally, HACCP is taught as being built upon other programs such as sanitation, hygiene, and good manufacturing practices. These other programs are sometimes described as the base of the pyramid and the HACCP plan being the peak of the pyramid. In my understanding of the new regulation, the HACCP (or preventive controls) portion of the overall food safety plan is more like one of many pillars that supports the whole building. I think it’s an important distinction because sometimes a complete focus on HACCP causes some of the other programs to lose priority. We get focused on maintaining the required paperwork but lose sight of the basics like pest control or cleaning. 

It’s interesting to note that in 117.126(a)(2), the food safety plan must be prepared (or its preparation overseen) by a so-called qualified individual, who can demonstrate through experience and education that they have the knowledge to do so. If we look at 117.126(b), this section details contents of the food safety plan.

I recognize here that the hazard analysis must be written. This is in contrast to seafood, where the hazard analysis is not required to be written. And I like this addition because it shows the thought process behind the selection of the hazards. It goes on to list that the plan must also include written preventive controls, a written supply chain program, a recall plan, monitoring and implementation procedures, written corrective actions, verification procedures, and records requirements for the aforementioned items. 

So far, a lot of similarities with traditional HACCP. Even the hazard analysis section is pretty standard. But when we get to 117.135(a)(2), there is a subset of controls that may be incorporated into the preventive controls plan. Here we see:
•    Process Controls (cooking, refrigerating, blanching, acidifying)
•    Food Allergen Controls (labeling, separating, scheduling)
•    Sanitation Controls (cleaning of food contact surfaces and utensils)
•    Supply Chain Controls (supplier approval, third party audits, testing)
•    Recall Plan (not a preventive control, but important nonetheless)
•    Other Controls (specific training or practices relevant to a particular food or process)

Just from this short analysis of 2 sub sections in subpart C of 21 CFR 117, I think there are some additional things to think about that go beyond just thinking about the hazards associated with the product. We can’t just slap together a HACCP plan. We need to look at how sanitation, supply chain, allergens, and the process affect the safety of the food and if it’s critical. If determined to be critical, then it needs to be monitored, documented, and verified. Then we must go a step further and seek out what those “other controls” are. There is no template or one size fits all approach. It takes an incredible amount of critical thinking, team work, and research. It will be interesting to see the creative ways food safety scientists come up with the proper controls necessary to address these hazards and how they fit into compliance with the regulation. 

5 Reasons Why You Should Invest in Digital Temperature Monitoring

There are many valid reasons why it’s important to invest in smart temperature technologies that will protect your customers, your business, and make your operation more efficient. Traditional monitoring has involved taking a reading periodically with an indicating thermometer or relying on a temperature recording chart (also known as “temp wheels”). While “temp wheels” have been standard issue for many years, they can be difficult to read, there’s labor involved in replacing them, and they’re prone to error. The following are some reasons why you should consider installing digital temperature monitoring devices:
 

Reason #1: Food Safety

Among all external microbiological growth factors, temperature remains one of the most critical to food safety. Yes, we all know the mantra – “keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold”. A simple rule that’s applied across the board. But in practice we have to be specific about monitoring and recording those temperatures. It’s not enough to say the cooler works. What about temperature fluctuations during different seasons or defrost cycles? This data needs to be captured as it can provide valuable insight into how well the process is actually being controlled. Under FSMA, any step determined to be a preventive control must be monitored and records must be kept. 


Reason #2: Food Quality

Depending on the type of food, temperature plays an important role in maintaining quality. It’s generally accepted in the food industry that the lower temperature you store a food, even a food not requiring refrigeration, the longer the shelf life of those products. When we talk about shelf life, we’re specifically talking about those quality factors that impact the eating experience, such as texture, taste, mouth feel, color, odor, etc. Although this may not apply to finished products, some manufacturers choose to refrigerate or freeze ingredients to extend the shelf life. A longer shelf life means less wasted product and makes for a more efficient operation. Unknown deviations in temperature could affect product quality.


Reason #3: Overall Efficiency

With digital cloud-based thermometers, there is no need to constantly replace and calibrate temperate wheels. There’s also no need to have an employee go around taking ambient temperatures with an indicating thermometer and recording it. They can focus on higher priority functions such as ensuring employee practices are adhered or that products are being made to specification. The data can also be accessed from anywhere with the additions of smartphone apps. There is also no need to scan paperwork into an existing electronic system. Saving time for your quality and food safety staff equates to saving money and preventing costly mistakes.


Reason #4: Easy Access to Records

If you a large facility who is subjected to several audits per year (or even per month), you want to have fast and easy access to temperature monitoring records. You may have the federal, state, and local government to deal with plus third party audits, customer audits, and Kosher inspections. Having electronic records gets you the information faster and more efficiently, ensuring a smooth audit. This also means the inspector isn’t waiting around and you don’t have to go digging for paperwork.

 
Reason #5: Prevent “Dry-labbing”

So-called “dry-labbing” is the practice of filling in data on a form that was not actually observed or performed. Generally we trust our employees working in food safety to do a thorough and accurate job when filling out monitoring records. But the food industry moves insanely fast. Production seems to never stop all the while you are trying to put fires out all over the place. It’s hectic and stressful. However, as busy as people get, we never want them to be in a position where they think that since the cooler has been 40°F for the past 30 days in a row that it will be the same today. This may lead an employee, for whatever reason to write down 40°F when the temperature wasn’t actually taken. This can lead to a systematic failure. Digital temperature monitoring can prevent such a failure if properly implemented. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Areas to Target With Restaurant Software and Technology

10 Areas to Target With Restaurant Software and Technology

Remember what the invention of the car did for personal transportation? Rapid innovations in software and technology are about to do the same for restaurants.

According TechCrunch, nearly $970 million in venture capital funds have poured into technologies aimed at streamlining restaurant operations and enhancing guest experiences.