Avoid Buffet Blunders  


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Avoid Buffet Blunders

You've been careful about preparing food safely in the kitchen, but once it hits the buffet line, its at risk. Why? Operations function like temperature controls with procedures for replenishing the buffet, which are manageable. Your customer is more difficult to control.

Once you expose food items to the public to serve themselves, you have a huge opportunity for foodborne illness and cross-contamination, says Ellen Schroth, Registered Sanitarian and President of McLean, Virginia-based Foodsense. They might have the flu. They might not wash their hands. They might use the chicken salad spoon for the peaches.

What's wrong with the picture? 1) Old product is being added to new--good way to cross-contaminate. 2) These batches are huge, which means theyll sit out exposed longer. 3) That tiny spoon is going to tempt someone to grab the bigger spon in the next pan, which leads to cross-contamination. 4) You cant tell, but we know this employee has not washed her hands. 5) The salads not labeled--someone might dip a finger in to test the goods. 6) Anybody checking the temperature? Read on for more great pointers.

Buffet Tips

1) Menu Choices: Think about the foods you offer and how you present them. A display of block cheeses with a few pieces cut looks great, but youre asking the customer to handle the rest of the cheese properly. Nine times out of 10, they wont, warns Schroth.

2) Look At Layout: Customers spill. So if you want to avoid celery falling into the lasagne, separate raw foods from cooked in the physical layout of the buffet.

3) Tag Em: Clearly label sauces, gravies and salad dressings and their corresponding utensils to prevent the fingerdip taste (yes, it happens).

4) Who's Watching The Kids?: Encourage customers to accompany children to the buffet line. Unsupervised kids might taste the chocolate pudding with the serving utensil and return it to the pan.

5) Inspect Equipment: Are steam tables working properly? Is water to the correct level? Be vigilant about equipment, says Schroth. Hot foods have to be held at 140F or above; cold foods at 41F or below.

6) Check Temps: Give staff state-of-the-art tools (temp monitors) to check and log food temperatures regularly. Make sure the logs list what temperatures should be.

7) Glove Use: You don't have to wear gloves if you've washed your hands properly. But if you choose to wear them, don't wear the same pair to handle food that you wore to service the buffet line. And remember that hands must be washed with each glove change. says Schroth.

 From Food Safety Illustrated

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