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Food Safety News

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Profitability and Food Safety

Opinion

As operators of food establishments look towards controlling costs, sometimes the decisions they make directly impact food safety. When sales go south, so does health and sanitation. In my years in the food service industry, this is what I have observed:

Reducing Labor Hours: Cutting staff has been a tactic used since the beginning of time. Unfortunately when this is done too aggressively, it can become a detriment. Expecting employees to unreasonably multi-task will not only affect morale, it will also hurt customer service. In some circumstances, individuals who care about food safety and try to do the right thing (like properly clean and sanitize a deli slicer) will often become the victim of getting their hours trimmed in revenge as a consequence of taking too much time.

Elimination of Training or Certification Programs: Having just one employee as a certified food handler in an operation where hundreds may be responsible for serving food is just not enough. More often than not, training gets kicked to the curb when it comes to cutbacks. It scares me when someone thinks cooking raw chicken to an internal temperature of 128 degrees F is justified; 165 degrees F for 15 seconds is what the FDA suggests.

Sick Employees Preparing or Serving Food: Some operators will just settle for a warm body, regardless of whether the person is infected with one of the “Big 5” pathogens. People who have Norovirus, Hepatitis A, Shigella, Salmonella or E. Coli, or are showing symptoms of foodborne illness such as diarrhea or vomiting, should not be handling food. I understand that people need to work to support their families; however there are other options besides risking a foodborne illness outbreak.

Neglecting Equipment or Facilities Maintenance: Does the price of a thermometer, getting table mounted cutting boards re-surfaced or eliminating the pest control company make sense? Some food establishments pinch pennies in areas where they cannot afford to. If you have mice in your establishment because of a lack of sanitation and they are caught on film by a customer and aired on the five o’clock news, how do you expect to increase sales with such negative publicity?

Purchasing Cheap Food Products From Unapproved Sources: Rolling raw bottom feeding fish from a local polluted river into sushi is not suggested. Neither is knowingly selling peanuts contaminated with Salmonella. Need I say more?

Rolling the dice with food safety will eventually catch up to habitual offenders. With the CDC estimating that 1 in 6 Americans contract a foodborne illness each year, the odds are high. Profits and managing the bottom line should never risk the consumer’s health. Unfortunately, this lesson often gets learned a little too late.

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