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Inspection issues shouldn’t detract from food safety focus

There are discussions in New York City about food safety-related restaurant fines. Some food outlets are unhappy ( about the kind of violations that are generating many of the fines applied to establishments in recent years.

Those looking for changes in the regulation want inspections and punishments – mostly fines – to focus on food-related matters. They argue that things like dim lighting or a lack of documentation about trans fats in food are not what people might commonly think of when they hear restaurants have been fined for violations.

Chefs can be forgiven for feeling inspections should focus on food safety, as opposed to box-ticking on documentation and other matters – though these types of regulation will undoubtedly have been engendered with the same principles of hygiene and safety in mind.

Whether the regulations in New York will change as a result of these recent calls remains to be seen. More generally, restaurateurs should not lose sight of the important matters of food safety because they are concerned with specific details like the brightness of lighting in the kitchen, or providing the correct documentation.

Such matters will of course prove important in avoiding fines and meeting the highest standards of inspectors – but foodservice businesses could quickly start equating food safety in general with this kind of box-ticking approach, and forget the true meaning of food safety.

Food safety should be a culture in your business: a mindset that makes safety and hygiene integral values of the organisation and your staff.

Focusing on specific, common violations to avoid detracts from the larger aim of food safety inspections: to establish that your restaurant is a safe and hygienic place for people to work and eat.

While restaurant owners and chefs can get frustrated with perceived issues with inspections – as the critics in New York help illustrate – they should not lose sight of the importance of food safety.

By all means make sure you aware of common pitfalls and protect your business from fines for specifics like documentation and lighting. But make food safety and hygiene part of your everyday approach in the kitchen and restaurant, and you won’t go far wrong come inspection time.