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Beware of the Substitute

Opinion

In the food industry, there are many instances where substitutes are used for a variety of purposes. Whether it is forced or by choice, the need to fill the exposed gap will have to get rectified when it comes to food processing in order to eliminate an interruption in business. What operators should also focus on when this happens are the basic potential pitfalls that are presented. If they are not identified, there cannot be a corrective action. Listed below are a few common scenarios:

  • Food packaging: Here is a hypothetical example that happens all too often. Your broad line distributer just sent you three cases of a plastic nine-inch clamshell container that you ordered and it was not from the same manufacturer that you typically use. The substitute they sent your food service is heavier. Did anyone notice the change and adjust the tare weight on the scale that is used for your self-service salad bar? You charge by the pound. Or did you only think about it only after the Department of Weights and Measures or Consumer Affairs did an inspection and fined your establishment for being out of compliance because you were overcharging customers? Always check your deliveries that come into your buildings, not just your food or ingredients. Is your product packaging what you ordered? Is it functional, damaged or infested with a pest? Also check the invoice pricing, as well as the person who is receiving the order. Sloppy controls can come back to haunt you.
  • Store employee measuring ingredientsIngredients: People like to get creative when it comes to food. Sometimes they think they can enhance a recipe without understanding what the potential consequences are if they do not stick to the game plan. Did your part-time employee run out of something and substitute something else? Was it an allergen? Was it listed on the ingredient label? You already see where I am going with this.
  • Employees: Does your food service establishment use a contracted staffing agency when you are in need of an employee? Is that person healthy? Do they know what they are doing and are they properly trained in safe food handling? A warm body just to fill a schedule gap can be potentially disastrous.
  • Equipment: I am a baker and in need of a sifter. Do I go online and find one that is NSF- approved and for commercial use? Or do I go down the street to the dollar store? As the old saying goes, sometimes you get what you pay for and, in this circumstance, a sharp piece of metal baked into a cake can be a dangerous physical hazard.
  • Supplier: Are they approved, certified, and inspected by a regulatory agency? Or are they a new startup operation that will do anything for your business, including sending you a delivery of liability?

The everyday changing landscape in the food industry requires operators to sometimes think outside of the box and be proactive when it comes to recognizing potential issues when it comes to safe food handling.

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