Food safety is typically a topic discussed by restaurant owners and employees behind closed doors. As consumers, when we experience our favorite restaurants, our biggest concern is selecting which delectable menu item we plan to order. But should consumers take more interest in restaurant food safety practices?
Recent food-borne illness outbreaks at popular restaurants like Chipotle, Jack in the Box, and Chicken and Rice Guys have us thinking about the ways that consumers can participate in their own food safety.
Food Safety Guidelines: An Overview
The FDA, as well as state and local health departments, are responsible for regulating and enforcing restaurant food safety standards. Restaurants and food trucks are required to comply with the FDA’s Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP), which is a food safety management system. The guidelines address the following areas of food safety:
- Cross Contamination. Keeping raw items separated from other foods prevents salmonella. Keep sinks and prep areas sanitized and having systems in place prevents cross contamination.
- Allergen Safety. “The Big 8” are the eight most common food products that induce allergic reactions. To accommodate diners with food allergies, labelling and cross contamination standards must be followed.
- Food Temperatures. Following specified food temp zones and preventing food temperatures from falling into the danger zones keeps food safe.
- Sanitizing. Special sanitizing systems are in place for restaurants. Both the front and back of the house must follow guidelines to keep customers safe.
Is Your Food Safe?
We assume when we sit down at a restaurant that professionals prepared our food and that it is safe to eat. But, how do we know? Restaurants want to serve safe, delicious food, but one simple mistake in the kitchen can result in a food poisoning outbreak.
Restaurant owners who put food safety systems in place and demand accountability of their employees can minimize the risk of poisoning customers. The problem arises when food temperature logs and sanitizing checklists are not consistent or accurate. If employees are not held accountable and managers are not diligent, restaurants can get caught up in preparing and serving food and forget to follow important food safety guidelines.
If you were assured by an independent third party that a restaurant exceeds food safety standards, would you be more likely to frequent that restaurant? Of course!
DiningGrades.com and FreshCheq.com are two companies that are using window decal programs to alert consumers of restaurants that make food safety a priority.
- DiningGrades.com was founded by Dr. Harlan Stueven. It converts public data from health inspections into a grading system that rates restaurants by letter grade. Diners can also weigh in on the grading if they suspect that they became ill from eating at a restaurant. Restaurants that achieve an “A” rating for three consecutive years will receive a window decal.
- FreshCheq.com was founded by a restaurant owner who struggled with paper food temp logs and was determined to find a better way. Used by restaurant franchises (Buffalo Wild Wings, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Godfather’s Pizza) and food trucks across the U.S., FreshCheq is a cloud based platform that automates food temp logs and sanitizing checklists. The robust application provides alerts, enterprise level reporting, and accountability measures to prioritize food safety. When restaurants comply with food safety systems according to FreshCheq standards, they receive a FreshCheq Food Safety Certified decal for their window. Consumers who see this decal are assured that food safety is a priority for the restaurant.
The next time you head out to your favorite restaurant, check the front window for food safety decals.
If you don’t see any, ask the manager if they participate in Dining Grades or use FreshCheq. Ask about their food safety practices and suggest that they put systems in place that provide a window decal. When consumers become involved in restaurant food safety, they not only protect themselves, but they also improve the restaurant industry.
Author: Julie Wilson
Julie earned her M.P.S. in Publishing from The George Washington University and writes several blogs in various industries. She is a Partner for FreshCheq.com, a cloud based, food safety automation software for restaurants and food trucks. When she isn’t hammering out content, she can typically be found in line at the local vegetarian food truck.