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What are the riskiest foods your restaurant can handle?

For many cultures worldwide, the holiday season involves family get-togethers and big, home-cooked meals. The image of families gathered round a full table of food and carving a plump Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey is a familiar one, for instance.

This is also a time of year when advertising – often commissioned by government agencies – warns people to defrost food carefully and/or cook it thoroughly.

While warnings about (for instance) salmonella from a poorly defrosted turkey may be well placed – in the UK, December often sees the highest number of food poisoning reports – it also highlights the conventional wisdom of food safety.

People often fear food poisoning from foodstuffs like undercooked meats, which is not an unreasonable concern; but what about uncooked eggs? Are they safe or risky? And how careful are people when it comes to vegetables?

What if some of this conventional wisdom about food safety risks is present in your restaurant kitchen? Staff may have inaccurate conceptions about the foodstuffs to watch out for and those that can be afforded a more ‘relaxed’ approach.

Vegetables, for instance, can easily get overlooked. Bagged salads and green, leafy vegetables can pick up things like E. coli and salmonella from soil – and require thorough washing to become safe to eat. Other starchy food with high moisture content, like couscous, can be susceptible to contamination.

Making yourself aware of some of the risks in food safety is obviously a wise move. Learning the likely food safety or hygiene oversights, such as the process for washing vegetables in food preparation, will help lower the risk of others making the same mistakes.

However this issue also serves to highlight the value of process. A good foodservice business will have clearly, well-known rules and procedures for handling and preparing food. Staff members will understand when and where to deal with different kinds of food; what utensils to use; when and how often to use cleaning wipes on surfaces; where to find required utensils and cleaning products like wipes. Signage explaining procedures will be available and visible. Helpful indicators like colour-coded chopping boards or knives might be in use.

With a well-run kitchen full of highly trained staff, there’s no need to fear that conventional misperceptions about ‘relaxed’ approaches to safety risks will damage your foodservice business. Staff will know exactly how to handle all foodstuffs safely – and avoid a lapse in judgement that could harm one of your diners.