There are few sectors in which good practice in food health and safety is so important as in the hotel and restaurant trade. Mistakes made in this field can have very negative consequences for the customer and, as a result, for the good repute and survival of the business.
Today we go over the different aspects and regulations related to this good practice, which should be applied by all businesses in the hotel and restaurant trade.
There are a number of national and autonomous community regulations which regulate food health and safety in restaurants, cafeterias and other catering businesses. These are the most important:
• Royal Decree 2207/1995 of 28 December, establishing hygiene regulations for food products.
• Royal Decree 109/2010 of 5 February. This Royal Decree repeals the previous one of year 2000 and establishes the regulations to be followed by food handlers and the responsibility of food product companies as regards the hygiene of their installations and products, proposing Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) self-monitoring systems
• Royal Decree 3484/2000 of 29 December, which establishes hygiene regulations for the preparation, distribution and commerce of prepared foods.
• Regulations 852/2004 and 853/2004 of 29 April, referring to food product hygiene and hygiene regulations for the handling of animal origin products.
• Regulation 1169/2011 or Food Information Law specifying the obligations of companies offering foodstuffs to inform consumers about the allergens present in them.
Contamination of foods
Food is contaminated when it contains substances which should not be in it and which may pose a hazard to the health of the consumer. The main sources of food contamination are:
• The environment
• Utensils and premises
• Other foods
• Food handlers
Microorganisms are a source of infection and are responsible for the main illnesses transmitted through food. They are found everywhere and the important thing is to monitor the environment so that they do not appear or proliferate in foodstuffs. One of the most effective measures for controlling microorganisms is temperature, to which they are very sensitive. Microorganisms can multiply or be destroyed according to the conditions in which they find themselves. The temperature brackets affecting foods are:
• Up to 0 oC. Microorganisms do not multiply in foodstuffs frozen between -18°C and 0°C, but they do not die either.
• From 0 oC to 5 oC. In this temperature range, known as refrigeration, microorganisms can reproduce, but only very slowly.
• From 10 oC to 60 oC. This is the most hazardous temperature range, promoting the fastest multiplication of microorganisms.
• Over 65 oC. Cooking to above 65° C is one of the most effective ways of eradicating microorganisms, as the majority of them are destroyed at these temperatures.
The storage of fresh or cooked foods in any catering business must fulfil the minimum conditions to ensure their useful lifespan and avoid contamination and health risks:
• Avoid direct contact with the floor and walls.
• Do not go beyond the capacity of the refrigerators and refrigeration chambers, since this prevents them from functioning correctly and achieving the desired temperatures.
• Store the products in an appropriate fashion so that it is easy to identify those which have been in storage for longer and take them out for use first.
• Monitor the temperature of the refrigeration chambers at least once per day.
• Do not clutter the storage spaces, and allow circulation of air between the products.
• Do not store raw and cooked foods in nearby zones.
The handlers are one of the possible causes of contamination of foodstuffs, and it is necessary that they follow strict hygiene regulations which respond to the following aspects:
• Personal hygiene: as well as suitable personal hygiene, it is necessary for handlers of foodstuffs to develop suitable hand washing and hygiene habits and protection from saliva and breathing.
• Health: it is necessary to pay attention to any symptom which may be related to a contagious or food-transmitted disease, as well as to properly cover and disinfect all the little cuts and wounds so common to the profession and which can be a source of contamination.
• Work clothing: The work clothing should be used solely in the workplace and be clean and free from rips in which microorganisms can accumulate. The hair and beard must be suitably covered by caps or protective nets and the wearing of objects of personal adornment such as jewellery or watches is not allowed whilst working, as dirt can accumulate in them and be transmitted to the food. Disposable gloves should be used whenever necessary.
A lot is at stake when considering food safety and hygiene issues in a restaurant or other catering business, and it is worthwhile making that extra effort in this field, quite apart from the bother of inspections.
What measures do you take to guarantee the hygiene of your products and your employees? Have you ever had any health problems, despite taking the necessary measures? We invite you to share your experience with us on the social networks.