Food Safety

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Cook-chill operating kitchens tend to require strict hygiene and a safe food handling procedure in place. This is partly due to the way cook-chill works by extending the time between the cooking and consumption and partly due to the scale of Cook-Chill operations⎯if a food poisoning outbreak were to occur, a large number of people could be affected. A brief overview of Cook-Chill procedures in the context of food safety is offered below.

Food Safety and Portioning & Packing

The room temperature should be below 10°C. During portioning and packaging, staff who handle uncooked food should not enter the area.
Equipment used for portioning and slicing should be clean and sterile. It should not be used for any other purpose⎯a system of color coding will help prevent confusion with equipment used for handling raw food.
Wear disposable gloves at all times. Change gloves regularly. Before putting on new gloves, thoroughly wash your hands using a suitable hand-cleaning agent, and dry them using disposable toweling or a warm-air dryer.Complete the process for each batch of food within 30 minutes of completion of cooking. When packing sauces, avoid too much of the sauce flowing through to the base of the container. Otherwise there is a risk of overcooking during the reheating process.

Food Safety and Labeling

The label should clearly indicate what the contents are, the date of production, the use-by date, and any special reheating instructions and must be attached firmly, in a position where it can be easily read during subsequent handling and storage. Sometimes a color-coding system is used.

Food Safety and Storage

The food should be kept in a chilled storage compartment or cold room at 0°C to 3°C. Monitors outside the equipment should indicate exactly what this temperature is, and an alarm device should sound if the temperature goes outside the range.
The containers (covered and sealed, as appropriate) should be stored so that air can circulate.
Containers should be above floor level and away from the door, to keep them out of draughts which might cause temperature variation.
Stock rotation procedures must be maintained, with appropriate records. Food that has been stored longest should be used first on a first-in, first-out basis.
Chilled storage facilities should not be used for storing other food items.
No foods should be stored beyond the date of expiry⎯no longer than 5 days from the day of cooking.
Temperature variations outside the range 0°C to 3°C must be reported immediately. A variation of up to 2°C either side of this band will not usually cause a problem, provided it is promptly spotted and corrected straight away. But this kind of variation should not happen more than twice in the period before reheating. If the temperature rises above 5oC, but remains below 10°C, the food must be consumed within 12 hours. If any other temperature variations occur, the food must be discarded.

Food Safety and Cleaning & Sanitizing

Equipment and preparation areas can be sanitized using either hot water or food grade detergent. When washing by hand, equipments should be kept under hot water for two minutes and the temperature of the final rinse water should reach at least 82°C. If the equipment can be immersed in hot water (100°C), sanitize it for 30 seconds. As a general rule, all equipment, which comes into direct contact with food, should be taken apart and cleaned after every use. Other surfaces and equipment should be cleaned as necessary.

Reference: Tourism, Hospitality and Sport Education and Training Authority (THETA), 2003