Food Hygiene Advice

foodhygieneadviceThe Food Standards Agency recommend that, before buying food services, you should check the hygiene rating of your food supplier.

Lobster Pot Catering have the maximum “5″ rating from the Food Standards Agency >>>

Hygiene and Food Safety Advice

The team at Lobster Pot Catering issue regular briefings to our Staff about Hygiene and Food Safety. This ensures that our Staff help us to maintain our Food Standards Agency “5” rating. Some of our briefings are relevant across the catering industry, and are available for reference to other ctering businesses.

 

Leftovers

Research by the Food Standards Agency research has found that around half of people questioned were trying to make better use of leftover food. The research also suggests that some people are taking unnecessary risks with leftovers as they try to save money and make food go further.

Providing clients with a generous amount of food at functions means that there may be food left over for the clients to use at a later date. The Food Standards Agency has offered a few simple tips in connection with leftovers, and you should remember these guidelines when packaging up leftovers for clients:

1. If the leftovers are going to be stored in a fridge, cool them as quickly as possible (ideally within 90 minutes). They should be covered, and eaten within two days.

2. If the leftovers are going to be frozen, tell the clients to cool them before putting them in the freezer. This is to minimise temperature fluctuations in the freezer.

3. Once foods are in the freezer, they can be safely stored for quite a long time. However, the quality will deteriorate, so the clients should be advised to put a date on the wrapping, and eat them within three months.

4. Remind the clients to defrost leftovers properly before reheating them. Defrost them in the fridge overnight, or in the microwave if they intend to cook them straight away.

5. Leftovers should be eaten within 24 hours of defrosting, and must not then be refrozen (the only exception is if you are defrosting raw food, such as meat or poultry which, once cooked, can be refrozen – but leftovers from our functions are unlikely to include raw food).

6. Leftovers must be cooked until steaming hot throughout.

7. Leftovers must NOT be reheated more than once.

Barbecues

Although barbecues are generally relaxed and casual occasions, and barbecue cooking can seem quite simple, there are some specific Health and Safety and Food Hygiene considerations. It may sometimes be appropriate to discuss these considerations with the clients.

Health and Safety at Barbecues

1. If the barbecue unit is mobile, the site chosen for it should be level. This will help to keep it from moving and, if you need to stand things on the barbecue unit, it will help to prevent them from falling off, or from falling into the heated section.

2. Wherever possible, you should avoid standing things on the barbecue. Use a separate table if one is available. If necessary, we can provide a trestle table.

3. The barbecue should be located away from any shrubs or low trees, or anything else that may catch light, or be damaged by the heat.

4. The barbecue must be located away from the area where the main body of guests will congregate. Guests should be discouraged from coming near to the barbecue. If necessary, use separate tables to create a “barrier“.

5. Try to locate the barbecue away from any strong draughts or wind. Draughts can make the flames harder to control, and could blow things over. Whilst avoiding things that might catch fire, you should still try to find a sheltered location.

6. The barbecue unit itself must be structurally stable. If necessary, check that any fittings holding the unit together are securely tightened.

7. The barbecue must be of an adequate height so that you can use it without having to bend, or lean over the grill. If you are leaning over, there is a greater possibility of falling against the barbecue.

8. If you are using gas, the gas container should have a British Standards kite mark. The gas cylinder itself must be in a well ventilated area, and away from any source of heat. Make sure that you read, and follow, any manufacturers’ instructions that come with the cylinder.

9. If it is a charcoal barbecue, you should only use proper barbecue charcoal. Do not try to improvise with any other materials.

10. When lighting the barbecue, make sure that any other matches and fuel are away from the fire.

11. If you are using cooking oil in the food preparation process, make sure that the oil container is kept away from the heat.

12. If there are several persons working on the barbecue, you should avoid arrangements where you “all muck in”. Each person should be given a specific role. This will help to stop you getting in each other’s way, and reduce the risk of picking up utensils to use on cooked food which someone else has used on raw food.

13. You should avoid any loose clothing or aprons which might inadvertently get too close to the flames.

14. Once the barbecue is up and running, it is particularly important to keep children away from the cooking area. Children are often curious to see what is happening, or to see if the food is ready. It may be necessary to ask the clients to speak to their guests and ask them all to keep their children away from the cooking area.

15. In the event that anyone working on the barbecue does suffer a burn, they should move completely away from the barbecue area, and only return if the burn has been satisfactorily treated and covered.

16. Make sure that your utensils are long enough so that you do not need to get your hands too near to the heat.

Food Hygiene at Barbecues

17. You must check that all food is cooked thoroughly. There must be no pink bits in the middle of any poultry, burgers or sausages.

18. If you are cooking large pieces of meat, use a temperature probe to check the internal temperature. Remember to disinfect the temperature probe before you use it, and to clean it afterwards.

19. Where possible, you should fully pre-cook poultry and sausages in a separate oven, and then just “finish them off” on the barbecue.

20. Keep raw and cooked foods separate at all times.

21. Use separate utensils for handling raw food and cooked food. If you cannot remember whether a particular utensil has been used for raw food or cooked food, take that utensil away and clean it thoroughly before continuing to use it.

22. If you need to handle raw food, you should wear disposable gloves. After handling the food, dispose of the gloves and wash your hands. You should always use appropriate utensils for the cooked food.

23. Until it is ready to go on the barbecue, food should be kept in the fridge. Do not leave it outside on plates where it is exposed to the Sun, insects, and dust.

24. Food must not be cooked from frozen. Food that goes on the barbecue must be fresh, or refrigerated.

25. At each stage in its preparation and service, food that is not actually on the barbecue should be kept covered.

26. Even if they appear to be visibly clean, the grills on which the food is to be placed should be disinfected before use.

Food Standards Agency videos

On YouTube, there are some Food Safety videos from the Food Standards Agency.

Here is the link:

Food Standards Agency videos

They’re very good, and each one is only about a minute long, so please have a look at them.

Working in Clients’ Kitchens – Avoiding Congestion Hazards

 If we are working in clients’ own houses, and preparing food in their kitchen, similar Health and Safety considerations apply as if we were working from our own premises. Where possible, you should try to discourage guests from congregating in any area set aside for food preparation. It is easier for us to work if we have an unobstructed space to work in. But there are also some important Health and Safety considerations.

What are the risks?

(1) In a crowded environment, there are more people to bump into. This increases the risk of something being dropped or spilt, and creating a hazard.

(2) If something does get spilt, it is harder to clean it up quickly if we are trying to do so around a lot legs and feet. It is generally true that, if something is dropped near the feet of guests, they will only move as far as necessary to avoid standing in the spillage. They will not leave the area altogether to allow the spillage to be cleaned up.

(3) If something does get spilt, the more people are in the area, the more likely it is that the spillage will be spread further by people’s feet.

(4) The sinks in clients’ homes are frequently smaller than the sinks in our food preparation area. Trying to wash large items of equipment in a small sink makes it hard to completely avoid getting water on the floor. Our standard safety procedure is to dry up the floor as we go along, so that the floor stays safe to walk on. This may be more difficult if there are people in the area, because it is harder to move away from the water and dry it up. Also, the people in the room might be obstructing the path to the cleaning equipment, such as mops, sponges, paper towels, etc.

(5) The more people are in the food preparation area, the harder it becomes to control the hygiene of the surfaces, and the utensils. Guests will lean on surfaces, and put their hands on surfaces, and there is no way to control whether or not guests go through the same sanitising procedures as our staff.

(6) From a Health and Safety point of view, it is hazardous to carry containers of hot liquid (boiled pans, kettles, coffee pots, hot drinks, chafing dishes, etc) in a crowded room. We should not really carry such hot items anywhere close to guests, and so the progress of the food preparation could be significantly hampered by guests in the kitchen.

(7) Guests who are standing in the food preparation area will also put things down on the working surfaces. This may be drinks, bags, phones, etc. As well as restricting the working surface space available for food preparation, and creating a possible risk of the guests’ items getting wet, we might also have to re-sanitise the surfaces so that we can continue using them.

What should I look out for?

When you arrive at the client’s house, there are some obvious signs to looks out for.

(1) Have chairs been set out in the kitchen? This could mean that guests who are looking for somewhere to sit down will do so in the kitchen. They may then end up with more guests standing around them. Once one group has moved into the kitchen, others are more likely to follow. Even without this small crowd, chairs just present something else that staff might trip over. You should discuss the potential problem with the clients, and see if the chairs could be located somewhere else.

(2) Has the kitchen been made “atmospheric”? Is there soft lighting, are there any candles, is there music, etc in the kitchen? If so, it is more likely that guests will be attracted into the kitchen. Wherever possible, when we are working, the lighting in the kitchen should be bright, and functional.

(3) Has the drinks service area been located in the kitchen? While, at first, it seems convenient to have the drinks served from the area where we are working, people do congregate around the drinks and, when they have been given a drink, do not move away. If the drinks cannot be moved, try to make sure that drinks are taken to guests, rather than guests coming to collect them. The “drinks from the kitchen” situation can become a particular problem when the food is finished, and the guests are continuing with drinks. Guests often move into the kitchen to drink, and talk. At that time, we are likely to be washing up. This involves a lot of movement of pots, pans, dishes and crockery, skacking and packing containers, and a lot of water, and the risk of spillages is more significant, particularly if we are trying to work in a confined space because the area is full of guests.

(4) Is the kitchen part of an open plan area? If the kitchen is not completely separate, it is more likely that the party will move into the kitchen area. Is it possible to create some sort of “barrier” (perhaps a small table?) to discourage guests from congregating in the food preparation area?

(5) Are things going to be “left” in the kitchen? If the client has set aside a place for guests to leave coats, presents, bottles of wine, etc, it would be better if that place was away from the food preparation area.

Polo Shirts and Aprons

This is just a quick reminder about our Lobster Pot polo shirts, and aprons. For this memo, I am going to refer to our pink (or black) polo shirts and our aprons as our “uniform”. We wear the uniform on all jobs to reflect the professionalism of our business, and for hygiene and cleanliness.

 1. Your uniform must be laundered between all jobs.

 2. You are not obliged to launder your own uniform. If you prefer not to launder your own uniform, you can leave it with us at the end of the function, and we will make sure that it is laundered for you.

 3. After laundering, your uniform should be placed into a clean plastic bag until it is needed. Freezer bags are useful for this purpose. Alternatively, you can wrap it in cling film. Do not put your uniform into a plastic bag if your uniform is still damp. Do not use a carrier bag which has been used to carry food.

 4. Your uniform must be ironed.

 5. You should not travel to the job, or travel home, in your uniform. You should change into your uniform when you arrive on site. We will make sure that suitable changing facilities are available. You should avoid changing in toilets or portaloos.

 6. Please do not wear any personal clothing which “sticks out” from underneath your uniform. If you wear any of your own clothes underneath your uniform, they must have been freshly laundered, and they must not be the clothes in which you travelled to the function. For the avoidance of doubt, the requirement to change when you arrive on site obviously does not apply to any underwear worn underneath your shirt.

 7. If, for any reason, you have not been able to launder your uniform, please let us know before we set off to the venue. We will provide you with a uniform. This might happen, for instance, if you are working on two jobs on successive days.

 8. If you borrow a uniform from anyone else, make sure that it is given to you in a clean plastic bag, and that it has clearly been laundered and ironed. If in doubt, please do not wear the uniform. We will provide you with a uniform when you arrive on site.

 9. If in doubt, we always have spare uniforms available for all functions, in a selection of sizes, and in both men’s and women’s fittings.

FSA Guidelines on “Sprouting Beans”

On Saturday 25 June 2011, the Food Standards Agency issued the following statement:

“The Food Standards Agency is revising its guidance on the consumption of sprouted seeds such as alfalfa, mung beans (usually known as beansprouts) and fenugreek. As a precaution, the Agency is advising that sprouted seeds should only be eaten if they have been cooked thoroughly until steaming hot throughout. They should not be eaten raw.”

This statement was issued in connection with the recent e.coli outbreak in France. Although, as we understand it, no cases of food poisoning have (as yet) been reported in the UK, the investigations by the FSA have suggested a possible link to sprouting seeds originating in the UK.

Until the situation is resolved by the Food Standards Agency, Lobster Pot Catering have suspended the use of raw beansprouts in our catering. This might be relevant, for instance, to some orders for raw salads.

How does this affect you?

(1) Where relevant, we will let clients know that beansprouts are being omitted from their salads (in cases where they might have been expected). In the unlikely event that any of you are asked about the absense of beansprouts, you will now know the reason.

(2) For your own own peace of mind, you might wish to avoid raw beansprouts for the time being (even though we appreciate that they are crunchy and refreshing!). Beansprouts cooked until steaming are not, as far as we can ascertain, being linked with any risk.

(3) Please avoid consuming raw beansprouts during the period of 3 days before working on Lobster Pot functions, or being involved in any food preparation for any Lobster Pot functions. We are making this request to assist in eliminating all possible origins of potential food contamination. If you have consumed raw beansprouts during such period of 3 days, you must let us know.

(4) We would advise you to observe the Food Standards Agency’s own guideline, which is: “Always wash your hands after handling seeds intended for planting or sprouting”. Such practice is more than covered by our existing hygiene procedures. However, what we would ask is that, for the time being, if you have handled raw beansprouts away from any of our functions, you wash your hands both BEFORE you set off to our function, and AGAIN when you arrive.

(5) If you have handled raw beansprouts away from the function, please DO NOT handle your Lobster Pot shirt or apron, or any clothing that you will be wearing to work, until you have washed your hands.