Article by David Fein
Failing to effectively implement and maintain food safety standards can cause serious problems for food businesses and their staff.
It’s a frightening reality that not all food businesses are ensuring good food practices. This is evidenced by the fact that 131 food businesses have been successfully prosecuted over the past 5 years with 60 of these losing their food business licenses permanently.
High standards of food safety are therefore paramount to every establishment involved in food handling. Maintaining a paper trail to validate robust food safety systems is an obvious pain point for many businesses. Digitizing this and streamlining and automating these systems can go a long way in ensuring that this validation framework is undertaken as required.
Not ignoring the obvious benefits to brand credibility, customer health and the avoidance of legal proceedings that high standards of food safety bring, effective food safety procedures can also add further value to all food business organisations.
After running a paper-based system with one of my clients for years (all seemed good with all temperatures recorded showing as compliant) we switched to a digital system with data probes that send reads every 10 minutes to a dashboard and got some very interesting results.
Over the period of 3 weeks, I monitored temperatures on two separate units at the same venue, to determine what the temperatures are in real time using a Monitor Pro Data Logger in real settings.
The results were, to say the least, surprising and is a stark warning to all food operators with older style bench fridges and cold bays, that further diligence is required to ensure that the food you are serving is safe for consumption.
Cold Bay 1 is an older model tray style with a bench fridge underneath that feeds cold air to the trays stored on top. A lid is used to protect food when not in use and this is raised during service so that staff can access the prepped items. In this the Monitor Pro Data Logger probe was placed in the centre of the cold storage device to get optimal readings directly in a chicken and mayo mix, commonly used in sandwich bars. The readings below are of a single day taken from 9:30 AM to 8:30 PM
As you can clearly see, when the lid is up, temperatures rise dramatically! Food items are in the temperature danger zone for significant periods of time only dropping when the lid is again shut. This clearly shows that this older type model needs to be watched more closely and food items in it must be turned over every 4 hours to ensure that food served is safe for consumption.
Previous temperature reports taken by staff using a probe type thermometer and recorded twice per day of this particular device showed that readings were between 3.5 to 5 degrees Celsius, they were taken when the cold bay was open and when returning to service after lunch, so the operator was unaware that this device was not functioning as required. The data readings were taken over a 3-week period, they have since decommissioned the device and replaced it with a new one!
The next report is of a newer model type that has a contained bay on top with a bench fridge underneath with fans built in that force cold air into vents that feed onto and over the top of the food items stored. Acrylic style sliders are placed on top when not in use to protect food items. The Monitor Pro Data Logger probe was placed in the centre of the cold storage device to get optimal readings and again was placed directly in a chicken and mayo mix, so that comparative readings could be sustained. The readings below are of a single day taken from 8:30 AM to 9:30 PM.
As you can see, this type device holds much better temperatures over a typical day, with temperature spikes noted at between 12 pm and 1 pm (5.2°C), 2 pm and 3 pm (5.4°C), 5 pm and 6 pm (5.5°C) and 8 pm and 9 pm (5.8°C) for short periods of time. This type of device much better protects food items from time temperature abuse and is a much better alternative in any busy kitchen than the older style models.
This is just one example of how launching a digital food safety recording system has helped me to establish accurate food safety parameters with easy to read and quantifiable data. Installing this system has saved the staff time, has reduced wastage and has allowed management to adequately gauge when it is time to replace equipment to protect food safety.