September marked the 17th annual National Food Safety Education Month (NFSEM), a campaign hosted by the National Restaurant Association (NRA) to heighten the industry’s awareness of the importance of food safety. This year, SCA and its Tork® brand of away-from-home paper products eagerly stepped in as partner and sponsor of NFSEM as part of its commitment to hygiene education and food safety training. Themed “Lessons Learned from the Health Inspection,” SCA and the NRA worked together to review food safety basics and create quick and easy tools for foodservice management to communicate hygiene practices that can be used year-round.
Lack of proper hygiene can impact employee health and attendance and result in larger outbreaks that risk the health of patrons and your bottom line. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cross-contamination prevention is increasingly important year-round as it is estimated that 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths per year stem from foodborne illness. The CDC also reports that 52 percent of foodborne illness outbreaks are associated with public food establishments, such as restaurants and delis.
To help prevent foodborne illnesses, ace health inspections and win the trust of patrons, who are also judging the cleanliness of a restaurant with a critical eye, follow these hygiene tips:
Implement a Handwashing Program
SCA’s 2011 Tork Report reveals that only one-third of the businesses surveyed have a hand hygiene program in place for employees. According to the CDC, handwashing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection. Educational sessions for employees on food safety issues should incorporate proper hygiene practices, such as those for washing and drying their hands. Training programs should be a collaborative effort between management and staff including rewards for compliance with the regulations. The CDC recommends these tips for proper handwashing.
Pay Attention to Restroom Set-Up
Poorly placed, levered soap and paper towel dispensers in restrooms increase chances of cross-contamination due to handling of levers after handwashing. Touch-free dispensers increase efficient and effective hygiene, reduce waste through control consumption and help ensure hands stay clean. Tork’s Elevation line of paper towel dispensers deliver towels one-at-a-time, preventing the spread of germs. Using a paper towel to open a bathroom door also helps prevent contaminating clean hands. Wastepaper baskets should be placed by restroom exits for easy paper towel disposal.
Don’t Let the Restroom Become the Forgotten Workstation
According to a 2008 survey commissioned by SCA, 88 percent of adults agree that restroom cleanliness is an indication of the hygiene standard of the restaurant and its staff, as well as its kitchen and food prep areas. Keeping a restroom cleaning schedule posted in your establishment’s washroom reminds employees to regularly clean the bathroom surfaces and demonstrates to your patrons a commitment to their health and wellbeing.
Cut Waste and Contamination with One-At-A-Time Dispensers
Open napkin dispensers and containers invite customers to take too many napkins, which may cause excess waste and increase the risk of cross-contamination. To alleviate this issue, provide one-at-a-time dispensers like Tork Xpressnap, which reduce consumption by 25 percent, decreasing the impact on your bottom line. One-at-a-time dispensers allow customers to only touch and take only what they need, cutting down on waste and preventing contamination of clean napkins.
Designate Your Surface Wipers to Specific Tasks
Cloth towels may not sanitize surfaces effectively and are often over-used to wipe down multiple surfaces in the front and back-of-the-house. These cloths are a breeding ground for bacteria, potentially creating a risk for foodborne illnesses. Disposable color-coded wipers, such as Tork Universal Cuisine Foodservice Wipers, can be used to assist in the prevention of cross-contamination by assigning different colors for front and back-of-the-house tasks.
Foodservice operators must expand the focus on hygiene from the kitchen throughout the entire restaurant, including the dining room and restrooms. Initiating and enforcing proper sanitation and hygiene practices among employees can help avoid basic health violations and the consequences that follow.
For free training activities and posters from the National Restaurant Association and to learn more about NFSEM, visit http://www.servsafe.com/nfsem/.
For more information about SCA, the Tork brand and its hygiene product solutions for the foodservice industry visit www.torkusa.com.