Last Updated on December 2, 2022 by Lauren Beck
Operating a restaurant requires you to be prudent and selective of what you serve your customers. You have an obligation to keep them safe and away from harm. Nothing like a bad case of food poisoning can ruin your reputation instantly. And when this happens, everything you have worked so hard to build will crumble.
This article will tackle the steps you, as a restaurateur, must take to ensure meat safety in your restaurant. All the steps boil down to the singular most crucial and initial step of selecting your meat supplier. The succeeding steps will be straightforward if you have a trusted supplier like The Meat Box.
The Risk Of Foodborne Illnesses
When food, especially meat, is improperly handled, pathogens such as salmonella and e. coli may grow and can result in foodborne illnesses. Every year, about 48 million people in the United States get sick of foodborne diseases. There are about 31 known pathogens, most of which result in foodborne illnesses:
People who ingest food like ground meat with harmful toxins like salmonella can suffer from food poisoning. Although most people recover from a salmonella infection in four to seven days, the symptoms may get severe that they can require hospitalization. The infected person may suffer from diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever. In a few cases, death can happen.
E. coli infection from meat can be deadly. The symptoms take longer to manifest, usually between three to four days. The symptoms are more severe, including bloody stools, vomiting, and abdominal pain, and what’s worse is that antibiotics may be effective but may increase the risk of complications in a patient. Contaminated meat from hamburgers in a popular restaurant in the United States caused an outbreak of E. coli in 1993 and resulted in its permanent closure.
The most susceptible to this infection are pregnant women and immunocompromised people. In one outbreak in 2002 in the United States, seven deaths and three stillbirths were reported due to the consumption of tainted turkey meat. Symptoms may include seizures, muscle aches, and loss of balance.
As a restaurateur, you must follow strict standards in your restaurant. All your staff must be trained and hold food handling and safety certifications. They need to be skilled and knowledgeable of the HACCP Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point standards, a global standard requirement for every food establishment to ensure food safety.
To give you a better idea, here are the steps to ensure meat safety in your restaurant:
1. Meat Selection
Only buy your meat from a trusted source and never buy meat past its expiration date. As much as possible, your supplier must give you freshly butchered meat. That’s why having a good relationship with your supplier is crucial. You also need to check your supplier’s background and reputation to ensure that you’ll only serve fresh meat in your restaurant. If you buy meat daily, you need to check the following:
- Meat that’s darker in color, has a strong odor, feels tough and slimy to touch
- Poultry with skin that’s faded
- Fish with slimy flesh and with a strong fishy or ammonia-like smell
- Meat in a torn package
As a food provider, it pays to know how to check and look for good quality meat to ensure your customers are in good condition, providing them with the taste of fresh and top-grade meat.
2. Meat Handling
Hand washing is an essential part of restaurant operations. Staff usually have a timer to remind them to wash their hands and sanitize them every thirty minutes or every time they touch their face or hair, go to the bathroom, and after bussing tables. But when it comes to meat handling, hand washing is done more frequently and longer when they touch raw meat.
It would be best if you also washed utensils used in handling meat very well, including the chopping boards and knives. It’s also a rule never to use the same chopping board with different ingredients. There should be a dedicated chopping board for chicken, meat, and vegetables to ensure cross-contamination is not happening in the kitchen.
3. Meat Storage
Raw meat must be stored in a well-maintained refrigerator and freezer. The refrigerator temperature must be at 34F or 1.1C, while the freezer must be at 0F or –17.8C. It ensures that meat retains its freshness and nutrients. Raw meat generally lasts safely for around three days in the refrigerator, but if you plan to store it longer, you need to store it in the freezer.
It’s also essential to follow the FIFO or first in, first out guideline in storing meat to avoid freezer burns. Freezer burn affects the quality and appearance of the meat, and it will not be very presentable to serve to your customers anymore. When a freezer burn happens, all the moisture in the meat is lost, and the meat will not be juicy and tender anymore when cooked.
If you have frozen meat, it’s important to thaw it first before cooking. But when you thaw meat, you need to thaw it inside the refrigerator, not at room temperature, to prevent bacteria from accumulating and contaminating the meat.
It’s also vital that your kitchen has a proper mise en place (ingredients are prepared). This kitchen assembly and organization ensures systematic production, so you always have fresh and high-quality food to serve your diners.
Serving quality meat in your restaurant will ensure both the satisfaction of your customers and its longevity and reputation. Following the mentioned steps in meat safety and getting your meat from a quality source will guarantee that a case of foodborne illnesses will not tarnish your business name.