Most restaurants make their menu items in their own kitchens, but some chain restaurants with a multitude of locations and other facilities may not have the luxury of staff or kitchen space so they bring in certain prepackaged items to fill out their menus. In these cases, the distributor is the one who prepares and packages these meals, salad mixes or other ready-to-eat foods, so how much responsibility do you have to take to ensure prepackaged items are safe? We’ll take a look at prepackaged food safety training.
Prepackaged Food Safety Training and Food-Borne Illness Risks
McDonalds recently fell victim to a food-poisoning outbreak in 15 states that was traced back to a salad mix that was prepared by Fresh Express and shipped to a large number of McDonalds restaurants. Just like July’s cases involving Del Monte vegetable trays, this salad mix was found to be contaminated with a parasite called Cylcosporiasis. In both of these cases, the parasites came from an outside source and not the restaurants, grocery stores or other outlets that sold them.
As food service managers, we cannot simply assume that these cases won’t happen to us, and if they do we need to have a better response than; “I didn’t make it, not my problem.” We need to use our food safety training in all instances, whether we’ve prepared the food ourselves or brought it in from an outside source. In the case of salad mixes and prepackaged vegetables, you’re still safe to wash and rinse these types of produce even if the sealed plastic bag declares that its contents are “ready to eat.” This extra precaution may save big headaches in the long run should the product be contaminated.
You should also take steps to prevent sickening your staff from non-produce items. Sometimes, undeclared allergens appear in dressings, snack bars and many other types of pre-packaged foods. We recommend vigilance in checking the FDA’s recall alert page. Here you can find a searchable list of all recent recalls due to contaminates or allergens.
Do you serve prepackaged, ready-to-eat foods in your facility? If so, do you provide prepackaged food training to your staff to ensure it is safe for your customers?