Types: Food shields protect food from safety hazards caused by customers coughing, sneezing, breathing on or interacting with products. This is achieved through a pane of glass or clear acrylic material that acts as a barrier between the customers and food.
There are countless styles of food shields with adjustable, ornate, institutional or custom designs. When selecting food shields, it's advisable to select those items made from NSF-approved components. For example, if aluminum posts are used, they must be powder coated or anodized. Only certain powder coat colors are NSF approved.
NSF classifies food shields into functional categories including self serve, cafeteria style or full serve. A third type is a vertical partition designed for the front of a cooking or carving station. Each category has specific guidelines concerning the design of the food guard.
Pass-over units are most common in serving-line operations where customers view their food options and staff hand customers their choices. Such units can accommodate one or two display shelves, and are almost always built into the serving line. Reach-through units are most common in buffet or self-serve operations, where customers reach under the food shield to retrieve their selections. In buffets, shields are typically canopy-style units that allow food to be displayed on all sides.
Capacities/Footprints: A food guard can be any length. It will be made of sections, with each section usually less than 5 feet long. Typically, food shields are custom manufactured; however health departments and NSF dictate specific sizes to meet safety needs. Sizes are also limited by the material selected. For example, a 3/8-inch thick piece of glass should not exceed 66 inches in length due to the deflection of the glass.
Manufacturing Method: The most common food shield materials are tempered glass, safety glass or clear acrylic. Glass panes are typically either ¼-, 3/8- or 1/2-inch thick. Panes can be flat or curved. The brackets that hold the glass are typically constructed of aluminum or stainless steel. Posts are typically nonoxidizing metals or powder-coated metals.
Prime Function: The basic function of the food shield is to protect the food from being contaminated by patrons. A secondary function is to merchandise the food in a manner that is appealing and increases sales.
New Features/Technology/Options: The newest innovation for food shields is adjustability, which allows operators to change menu selections as well as service capabilities within their facility. Some food shields allow designers and operators to take advantage of the unused space above the counter by providing additional merchandising capabilities.
Purchasing Guidelines: Food shields are typically custom fabricated on order, therefore the order process requires drawing approval. Food shields are available with brackets in a variety of colors and styles. Glass panes can have designs or logos etched into them to help achieve the look and feel an operator desires.
Understand the application. Most guards do not have adjustability, which can hinder the ability to change service options or comply with changing health code regulations.
Ensure guards are mounted to counters using structural methods to prevent leaning.
Think of guards as equipment. They not only protect, but can be used in creative ways to help showcase and merchandise food.
Maintenance Requirements: Maintenance of food shields is an easy process. They simply need to be cleaned daily with soap and water. Harsh abrasives can damage the finish and should be avoided.
Food Safety Essentials: Most municipalities require food shields to protect food from hazards spread by coughing, sneezing, breathing on or interacting with products. Food shields by nature are in place to provide safety for the food. The conformance of the food shields to NSF guidelines for protection is essential.