Practising food safety

With the Caribbean Junior Duelling Challenge (CJDC) programme achieving its mandate of encouraging aspiring junior chefs from throughout the Caribbean to prepare dishes using at least 80 per cent local and regional produce and products and to participate in a culinary competition that can proudly stand up to international scrutiny since 2008, the next logical step was to further engage and educate these young people through a Caribbean Junior Culinary Conference (CJCC).

The CJCC provides an opportunity for these juniors to interact and participate in workshops and demonstrations conducted by some of the top industry experts locally, regionally and internationally, who represent the diverse range of areas that make up the culinary arts field – from Baking, Butchery and Molecular Gastronomy, to Mixology, Food and Beverage Education and Finances.

First held in 2014, the CJCC has been proud to host experts including, but not limited to, Food and Beverage Educator, Josué Merced-Reyes of Puerto Rico, organizer of The Taste of the Caribbean for over two decades, Chef William “Bill” Moore, Certified Master Baker, Certified Executive Pastry Chef, Manfred Schmidtke, as well as Kansas City BBQ Society Pitmaster, Jim Johnson, to name a few.

Needless to say that over the last four years, our Caribbean youth have been treated to a wealth of information and have had front row seats at some of the most sought after demonstrations by these industry experts.

This week, we share key information that was presented at one such workshop, which focused on the importance of hygiene and safety in the hospitality industry. This session was conducted by World Certified Executive Chef, Consultant and Food Hygiene and Safety Trainer for the Hospitality Industry, Chef Jeffrey Rotz. The following extract is taken from an article published in the Caribbean Junior Culinary Conference Magazine 2016.

“Food safety, or should I say improper food safety, can affect our community, hotels and resorts, catering companies, supermarkets and street vendors, among others. One of the key things that can happen is that your reputation can be ruined.

You can have the best operation and produce thousands of quality meals perfectly, but as soon as you have one food safety issue, the whole world hears about it.  The cost of training your staff equates to pennies when compared to the cost of liability defending yourself in court.

To ensure that you have good food products, the following steps should be heeded:

·     Purchase food from approved sources – know who you are purchasing from.  The pick-up truck on the side of the road may not keep its food safe and you do not know from where the items have been sourced; visit the warehouses of your purveyors and see how they handle the food.

·     Inspect food upon delivery – Schedule deliveries when you can properly inspect them

·     Potentially Hazardous Foods should be received at the correct temperatures (FDA temperatures) – Refrigerated at 41° F or lower Exceptions:

• Shelled eggs: 45° F or lower

• Milk 45° F or lower – but then must be refrigerated and temperature decreased to 41° F or less within 4 hours.

• Live lobsters, oysters, etc. – 50° F or lower

·     Cook food correctly – Make sure that food is cooked to the correct internal temperature:

• Vegetables, fruits, rice, legumes, etc:      135° F

• Beef, Pork, Fish (except ground):           145° F

• Ground Meats (except poultry):              155° F

• Poultry, wild game, stuffed foods:          165° F

·     Hold food at correct temperatures:

• “Hot food hot”                                           135° F or higher

• “Cold food cold”                               41° F or lower

·     Limit the time food is in the danger zone Danger Zone i.e. 41° F – 135° F Bacteria growth can be limited by controlling how long food remains in the “danger zone.”

·     Cleaning work spaces properly – Nothing is better than cleaning with hot soapy water.  Equipment, pots, pans, small ware etc, should all be cleaned and sanitized after each use.  Countertops should be sanitized prior to being used and utilizing the correct type and amount of sanitizing solution is very important;  the area will not be sanitized if too little of the solution is used; however, too much solution will leave a residue which can lead to chemical contamination. NEVER dry with a towel; always allow to air dry.

·     Poor personal hygiene – enough can’t be said about good personal hygiene. Wash your hands, wash your hands for a minimum of 10 to 15 seconds with hot soapy water and then use a single-use disposable towel to dry (at work); Wash hands whenever changing tasks and be sure to wash them when leaving the rest rooms and after eating.

·     Training – Continued food safety and hygiene training will benefit your place of business.

Have new food handlers attend training session during orientation or at least during the first 90 days of employment; have all supervisors attend Food Protections Manager’s certification courses;  conduct refresher training a minimum of once a year.

These are just a few areas that you can review to help prevent food borne illness and the growth of bacteria.

There are certain items that we cannot control in the growth of bacteria, but we can control the time and temperature that food is kept.  Always remember the “danger zone”; the longer the food is in the danger zone, the greater the possibility that bacteria will grow.

Today, persons are more educated and more aware of the “behind the scenes” happenings than ever before.

Thanks to the media, television cameras have gone into kitchens and celebrity chefs are putting restaurants and food preparation and handling in the spotlight.

It is vital that staff is educated in safe food handling procedures, not only for the safety of guests, but of course for the image you want to project to those “aware and educated” travelers.

A simple framed certificate for a food safety course hanging on the wall is sure to be noticed and appreciated by your visitors.

Developing a food safety training programme is critical to attaining and maintaining high ratings in the hospitality industry and awareness and education are the ways to get there”.

Source: (Peter Edey is a Certified Executive Chef with the American Culinary Federation, a graduate ofl’École Ritz Escoffier, Paris and a Certified Caribbean Hospitality Trainer.

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