Training Seasonal Workers About Food Safety

Prevent Foodborne Illness Outbreaks

Yesterday I picked up my phone to check a news item I had been notified about and found that one of my favorite places to eat, and being a franchise, they had recalled a number of their lunch items due to contamination issues in 10 states. Immediately we went to the CDC reports and found it was true. Of course my mind was reeling wondering exactly what the issue was. Was it a supply issue, or even worse was it do to contamination in the kitchen where the items had been prepared and then distributed from? Long story short they are working that out but what I found out left me disappointed and I realized no one company, distribution center or farm is immune from contamination. After a lengthy review of the last years recalls previously listed by various companies, I realized it could even be ground water used to keep items alive.

Wow, it's really bad out there and as a business who provides food to the public, we often forget that we are one employee seasonal or not, away from causing a foodborne illness outbreak at our restaurants. Since we sell all manner of foodservice and restaurant equipment, janitorial supplies, cleaning products, and germ killing solutions are just as critical as any equipment you may purchase for your dining patrons.

Food For Thought

Now that summer is here, temperatures rise and seasonal employees may be hired, and every reataurant kitchen managers and owners must come to terms with the reality that things can get dicey if you don’t train your work staff carefully.

The latest statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics identified by Restaurant Industry News tell us that restaurants will employ about one-third of all working teenagers in the United States. Many of these continue part time to keep positive cash flow coming in. For many, this is their first job experience so training is essential to their success. In addition, our industry boosts seasonal employment, especially during the summer. Depending on what state or city code you are required to fulfill, not every new hire is required to complete a food handling course and be licensed to serve in that capacity. If that is case, it's still your responsibilty to initiate ongoing training of your own.

Of course with the transient nature of seasonal employment, this is one reason why providing proper training is integral to maintaining a safe space for customers to dine in, and it doesn't matter what the venue is. Even movie theaters, street food vendors, and kiosks in malls are not immune from safe food handling. So, keeping this in mind, here are a few tips to keep everyone from your customers to the management to your staff very healthy and happy about peace of mind as it relates to food consumed in a place of business, institution, hospital and/or school.

  1. The absolute first number one is "Train, train and retrain, even offer re-training to remind". When hiring a new employee, whether he or she is a seasonal, part-time or full-time staff member, it is your responsibility to make sure you reinforce food-safety training multiple times. Like most hospitals and security emergency and crisis events require regular training events to stay sharp. We encourage that all foodservice industry professional retrain all employees periodically. Most especially if you notice tasks performed inappropriately. Organization is key when it comes to making sure all employees receive appropriate training for their job function.
  2. Next, it is possible to create a training matrix that identifies job function, training required and whether or not the employee has received that training. If you have a subscription based solution, paperwork is critical in identifying your city or state requirements, or even in some cases federally mandated documentation can prevent missing getting anyone trained improperly.
  3. The first way to make that happen is to train seasonal workers the same as full-time staff. Just because some employees work seasonally doesn’t mean they shouldn’t receive the necessary training to perform their jobs properly. Documentation secures their having a clear picture of expectations in food safety. By making sure everyone knows which tasks and training are critical for each job function and have the right number of employees working each shift to perform only the tasks they’re trained to do, management and staff meet requirements and have peace of mind all unsafe food conditions are met.
  4. In large franchise situations with employees who handle food, their franchise manuals require cross training to enable performance if staff can't work due to illness, vacation, or have days off. Remember it is the managers job to keep up with who knows how to do what. Proper cross training eliminates this if you have a program in place to provide ongoing food safety protocol training. If staffers aren’t cross-trained to perform multiple duties, and remember to not give them tasks they can’t handle. For example, at lunch rush, don’t turn your cashier into a food-prep employee if it's a new hire or they are not required to take food service training classes to cashier...
  5. Best accepted foodservice and industry practices will always work. You can teach every employee these general best practices. All food handlers should know the basics of food-safety training, and be sure the training is not limited to only one aspect like preventing food contamination only. Effective training means you must cover all the bases.
  6. The most simple tip for food safety may be proper handwashing and hand care. Once everyone understands and performs proper handwashing and hand care, next comes being knowledgeable in the appropriate use of single-use gloves, keeping a great practice of personal hygiene. Critical information is required so all employees and management know policies for and report potential health issues.

If you are new to the foodservice industry and have not been trained in food safety and food handling, check out online about food safety practices for the restaurant industry at one or both of these fine companies. FoodSafetyFocus and ServSafe are some that are well versed in proper food handling. If you are a franchise, these protocols for day to day operations are or should be provided in the company manuals. Remember training staff and reinforcing cleaning and sanitizing practices can prevent foodborne illness and protect guests. This is always a good thing.


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