Checklist: Food Safety for Foodservice

Checklist: Food Safety for Foodservice  

Every year, more than four million Canadians are sickened by foodborne illnesses after consuming food and beverages contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites or moulds. 

Most of those affected suffer a few days of stomach cramps, nausea or diarrhea, while some land in the hospital. For those with compromised immune systems, however, along with seniors and children under five, food poisoning can be life-threatening. 

Symptoms can start within hours, days or even weeks after eating contaminated food. 

Of course, nobody in the food industry sets out to make their customers ill. Since food can become contaminated at any time during handling, storing and cooking, it’s essential that all food handlers understand the importance of food safety. Use this checklist as a reminder of the basic rules to keep customers (and staff) safe and healthy.

Keep it Clean    

Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm water before and after handling food and after using the bathroom. It all begins with proper personal hygiene.
To eliminate bacteria, use warm soapy water to clean knives, cutting boards, utensils, countertops and sinks that have come in contact with any kind of food. Then sanitize.
Dishcloths are a breeding ground for germs and need to be changed often. Have a bucket with sanitizing solution for cloths not in use and remember to change the solution often. When a cloth or wipe can't get into all the crevices and corners of your commercial kitchen use brushes.
Rinse fruits and vegetables under running water. Brush produce with thick skins, such as melons, potatoes and squash with a vegetable brush.
Thoroughly wash and sanitize all dishes or utensils used for raw food. Separate: Don't cross-contaminate!
One of the most common causes of food poisoning is cross-contamination, the transfer of harmful bacteria from, say raw meat or poultry, to another food via contaminated tools, equipment or hands. 
In many cases, cutting boards are a prime suspect. One way to cut the risk is by using colour-coded boards. You could, for example, reserve a brightly coloured board for raw meat. This will prevent someone from cutting lettuce on the same board just used to cut raw chicken. 
Consider the HACCP system: a red board for raw meat, yellow for raw poultry, blue for fish and seafood, green for fruits and veg, white for dairy and brown for cooked food. Plus a wall chart to remind staff which colour is which. 
In the fridge, keep raw meat, poultry and seafood in separate containers and don’t let juices drip onto other foods by storing on the bottom shelf.
If you’re sick, stay home. Preparing food while sick can spread germs, such as salmonella, hepatitis A and E. coli to food and to other people. 


Cook it right 

Most germs are killed by cooking food to an internal temperature of 165F (74C) or higher. Since you can’t tell if food is safely cooked from its colour and texture, a thermometer is essential. 
Choose a digital, instant-read model. Insert the probe tip into the deepest part of the food, without touching any bone, until it reaches the proper internal temperature. For burgers, insert a food thermometer through the side of the patty. 
Clean and sanitize thermometers after each use to avoid cross-contamination. 
If you’re not serving food right after cooking, keep it out of the danger zone (between 40°F -140°F/4C - 60C) where germs can multiply rapidly and make people sick. Maintain the proper temperature in a chafing dish or warming tray. 
Cook raw meat, poultry, fish, and seafood within three days of purchase or freeze. 
Use refrigerated leftovers as soon as possible, ideally within two to four days. 
Reheated leftover food should reach 165F (74C) or higher within 2 hours. Then transfer to hot holding equipment. Do not reheat food more than once.


Chill out 

Keep your freezer set at 0°F (-18°C) or lower and your fridge at 40F (4C). Use an appliance thermometer for accuracy. And don't pack your fridge or freezer too full, air circulation is required to keep the contents at the proper temperature.
Chill perishable food immediately. Keep frozen food frozen. Check that food deliveries containing perishables and frozen products arrive at safe temperatures.
Refrigerate cooked food within two hours of cooking. Use rapid cooling techniques to achieve safe food temperature within two hours - ice bath, stirring frequently, shallow containers or cutting into smaller pieces.
Do not put large amounts of hot food in the fridge or cooler.  It will increase the temperature of all of contents and put them at risk.  
To thaw frozen food safely, leave it in the fridge in a drip-proof container. For quicker thawing, wrap in a sealed bag and submerge in cold water, changing the water often. Or thaw in the microwave. Never thaw food on the counter; bacteria multiplies as food warms up. 
If you must thaw food in a microwave, cook immediately. 
Always label the lid of your containers with the date and what’s inside. 
Do not refreeze thawed food. 
Check the best-before date when buying food. Follow FIFO (first in, first out) inventory management. When in doubt, throw it out! 


Stay informed and up-to-date

All Canadian food businesses must have a set of written procedures to help eliminate, prevent or reduce food safety hazards that can harm customers. 
The Canadian Institute of Food Safety offers an online Food Handler certification course. Or check with your local health unit.
Check for food recalls, cooking and food safety guidelines at 
A well-designed food safety program leads to repeat business, lower cleaning and sanitizing costs and employees happy to know they’re working with safe food. 


Written by Cynthia David