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Lack of food safety knowledge can be a problem for retailers

Editor’s note: This is the third of a four-part series on technology and food safety sponsored by PAR Technologies.

Pizza, meatloaf, pasta salad, deli sandwiches, rotisserie chicken, a full Chinese food buffet – and yes, even sushi are common fan favorites found in supermarket café’s and deli section for grocery shoppers wanting to dine in or pick up a quick and easy meal while grocery shopping.

While this diversification in retail offerings opens the door to winning over cliental, the same door also opens supermarkets up to liabilities in the event of a food safety compromise or its prepared products.

According to Donna F. Schaffner, Associate Director in Food Safety, Quality Assurance and Training for Rutgers Food Innovation Center, using Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points, better known as HACCP, is an effective way to reduce dangers.

Ensuring that food prepared by store employees is done so in a way that comples with the Food Safety Modernization Act is crucial, especially with high-risk foods such smoked meats, pickled or fermented products, sushi and during reduced-oxygen packaging of foods.

While food safety and HACCP should be at the forefront of every retailer’s agenda behind the deli counter, it can sometimes become compromised because of a lack of understanding of its importance.

“With some notable exceptions, the managers of grocery stores seldom seem to understand the significance of the potential food safety hazards that could be generated in their deli departments, and do not require their food preparation employees to attend a HACCP certificate training,” Schaffner said.

Such a lack of understanding may lead to using a “whatever is available” approach to operations rather than following the HACCP plan. That, Schaffner said, can cause food safety compromises such as cross-contamination of by allergens and pathogens. While this unavailability of knowledge and understanding is the most common issue Schaffner sees, she said the high rate of turnover for employees in food service adds another difficult layer in terms of adequate employee training.

According to Schaffner, advancements in technology have made implementation of HACCP in retail stores easier while overcoming challenges.

“Several companies are offering standard-template type computer programs for documenting and storing the records of HACCP checks in the food service environment,” Schaffner said.

Other pieces of technology include better designed paper towel dispensers to encourage employees wash and dry hands properly, training aids such as UV sprays to make germs visible to the naked eye, automated temperature tracking sensors, and preloaded HACCP checklists on handheld devices, notes Schaffner.

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