Food Safety and Cook-Chill System
The importance of good hygiene and correct food handling procedures cannot be emphasized enough. The cook-chill system is usually found in large establishments, which cater for large numbers of customers. Therefore, there is a large target audience who could be affected if improper food handling or poor hygiene practices go unchecked. Most central cook-chill kitchen operations work with very strict guidelines regarding hygiene and food handling rules. In these kitchens, many food preparations may be carried out in different rooms and staff is not permitted to move from preparation room to preparation room. Colored neck kerchiefs or aprons are used to identify personnel from one specific food preparation area to another food preparation area. The same color-coded system may also apply for small equipment or utensils. This can lessen the chances of cross-contamination between cooked and uncooked food.
Keeping samples of each food is also recommended. When a food poisoning problem does occur, or a complaint is made about the quality of the food, it is important to be able to investigate the cause. For this reason it is the usual practice to set aside a sample of each batch of food produced. It is labelled with the date of production and the name of the dish. Samples are kept under the same refrigerated conditions as the other food from the batch. They are kept for two or three days beyond the date of consumption. This is because problems are not always reported immediately.
General guidelines for food safety in central kitchens:
- Hands must be washed before and after preparation to maintain a high standard of hygiene.
- Areas used for the preparation of food items must be clean with no visible signs of food debris or food particles.
- Stainless steel shelving, counters and tables need to be cleaned and sanitized daily or after each service.
- Clean as you go is always the best policy.
- All work surfaces must be sanitized after use.
- When cleaning equipment, special attention must be given to any equipment that contains areas where food particles may become lodged, e.g. food processor components and chopping boards.
Reference: Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Education and Training Authority (THETA), 2003