In commercial foodservice, there should be no compromising when it comes to food safety.
Foodborne illness sickens about 48 million people annually in the U.S., resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 deaths, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control. Approximately 30 percent of the population, including young children, the elderly and pregnant women, are more at risk from dangerous bacteria, including Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli.
With recent media attention highlighting widespread foodborne illness outbreaks, taking the appropriate steps to eliminate any potential lapses in food safety is more important than ever for foodservice operators.
There are a number of equipment options available that provide features specifically geared toward enhancing food safety in foodservice operations.
One of the biggest focuses in keeping food safe is temperature consistency. The danger zone, or temperature range where food is most susceptible to pathogen growth, is typically between 41 and 140 degrees F.
The seven principals of Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) provide a path to prioritizing food safety:
- Hazard analysis
- Critical control point identification
- Establishment of critical limits
- Monitoring procedures
- Corrective actions
- Record keeping
- Verification procedures
Temperature probes are a first line of defense in keeping food temperatures safe, as well as for necessary HACCP recording capabilities. These tools make it simple to download cooking and cooling time and temperature data from equipment to store in easy-to-read spreadsheet files.
“Although many manufacturers offer temperature probes, not all provide HACCP recording capabilities,” says Rocky Rockwell, corporate chef at Alto-Shaam Inc. “Also, unlike hard-wired probes, removable probes are less likely to break and easier to replace.”
Alto-Shaam’s combi ovens, cook and hold units and blast chilling equipment utilize internal reinforced detachable food probes to ensure food reaches proper and safe, temperatures. The probes are designed to pull away from the unit, reducing equipment downtime and repair costs.
By implementing these probes, operators can program units to cook or chill food to specific internal temperatures, rather than just monitoring the temperature of the equipment itself. This provides more accurate results and helps enhance an operator’s food safety protocol.
Today’s quick chilling technology has helped upped the ante when it comes to food safety and adherence to HACCP requirements.
Before blast chillers, chefs would use chilling wands or ice sticks to cool off hot food items.
The problem with this method is that most kitchens don’t have the necessary dedicated freezer space to cool down the wands after cleaning in dish machines.
“Because these ice sticks are difficult to clean and store, food safety can be more easily compromised,” says Rockwell.
Another common cooling method is rolling racks of hot food into refrigerators or walk-ins.
“This basically thermally cross contaminates everything in the unit, because the hot product is compromising the cold temperatures,” says Rockwell. “It’s important to account for the necessary cooling time.”
Blast chillers not only accomplish this task by lowering food temperatures from 140 to 40 degrees F within two hours, but also incorporate probes for enhanced food quality and reduced waste as well as HACCP recording capabilities.
With soft chill, hard chill, freeze and hold modes, Alto-Shaam’s blast chillers provide the appropriate program based on an operation’s production needs.
The quick-freeze mode cools temperatures down to -10 degrees F. This can be used for individual items that will be transferred to a freezer or to quickly freeze food that is already below 40 degrees F.
The soft-chill mode is designed for less dense items, such as fish and vegetables, while hard chilling is ideal for dense foods, like meat and casseroles. Holding mode temperatures are between -5 and 40 degrees F.
“The hold capacity designates how much product a blast chiller can hold and still maintain proper temperatures,” says Rockwell. “It’s not uncommon for chefs to overload a blast chiller with hot product, which can impact cooling temperatures, so it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.”
Container size also is a factor with proper blast chiller cooling. Items to be chilled should be in containers no more than 2 ½ inches to the center in depth for appropriate cooling.
“Utilizing probes and quick chill programs while maintaining HACCP data are essential factors in ensuring food safety,” says Rockwell.
Schedule a demo to test Alto-Shaam cooking equipment.