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Standard Operating Procedures for Safe Food

A good management system for food safety in a restaurant must include several prerequisite programs for an effective overall system. It is kind of like developing your own basic personal values and a moral code for food safety before you even start preparing and selling food. Sanitation standard operating procedures (SSOP's) are written methods that specify practices to address general hygiene and measures to prevent food from becoming contaminated due to various aspects of food environment at your facility. Managers must train new crew members about SSOP's during the first days of employment. SSOP's must be a part of your restaurant's culture.

The FDA Food Code has addressed the structural design of food establishments and equipment as well as acceptable operational practices. These major interventions in the Food Code include: 1)demonstration of knowledge by the person-in-charge [usually food safety manager certification training] 2) employee health policies 3) no bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food [good handwashing practices, utensils & glove use] 4) time and temperature control and 5) the use of consumer advisory information regarding consumption of raw or undercooked food. If you want to look them up, here's the 2001 FDA Food Code website: http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/fc01-toc.html

SSOP's are documented as a written reference and as mentioned above, are used to train the staff responsible for the tasks. Three purposes for establishing SSOP's are to protect your products from contamination from microbiological, chemical, and physical hazards; to control microbial growth that can result from temperature abuse; and ensure procedures are in place for maintaining equipment.

SSOP procedures ensure that:

  • Foods are purchased from approved suppliers / sources;
  • Potable (safe) water is used in contact with food, food contact surfaces, and ice;
  • Food contact surfaces are cleaned, sanitized, and in good condition;
  • Un-cleaned or non-sanitized surfaces don't contact our foods;
  • Raw animal foods don't contaminate ready-to-eat foods;
  • Toilet facilities are accessible, properly equipped and maintained for crew;
  • Handwashing sinks are located in food preparation area, front service counters, and dishwashing areas. The sinks are all equipped with soap and paper towels (nailbrush, hand sanitizer, and gloves too);
  • An effective pest control program is in place;
  • Toxic materials are properly labeled, stored, and safely used;
  • Food, food packaging materials, and food contact surfaces don't come in contact with physical hazards such as broken glass from light fixtures, jewelry, etc.
SSOP's for Employee Health and Hygienic Practices:
  • Restricting or excluding workers with certain symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea (see Chapter 2 of the Food Code);
  • Practicing and monitoring effective handwashing and gloving for safe hands;
  • Restricting eating, smoking, and drinking in food preparation areas.
  • Using hair restraints, wearing clean uniforms, and restricting the wearing of jewelry. SSOP's to Control Microbial Growth in Foods:
  • These procedures must ensure that all potentially hazardous foods (PHF's) are received and stored at a refrigerated temperature of 41°F or below.
  • Procedures are in place to limit the time PHF's are in the Temperature Danger Zone (41°F to 140°F). Hot foods are reheated rapidly and are then hot held at 140°F or above.
SSOP's to Maintain Equipment:
  • Temperature measuring devices and thermometers are calibrated regularly.
  • Refrigeration, cooking and hot holding equipment are routinely checked, calibrated, and operating correctly to ensure correct food product temperature.
  • Handwashing sinks and equipment are installed and operating properly.

    Food service directors, managers and crew must implement a good internal program of self-inspection to ensure that these food safety standard operating procedures are always in place.

`Til next time,

Lacie Thrall
Safety Management Services
FoodHandler Inc.

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