Frequently asked questions, nuances, and clarifications from my inspections
*Please note, these answers are strictly based only upon food safety and sanitation, not product quality, a microwaved ribeye is safe to eat but please don’t do it.
HOW ABOUT BUTTER AT ROOM TEMPERATURE?
I have kept butter on my counter for well over 40 years and am still alive to tell the tales but what are the guidelines on butter?
This has been a hotly debated topic for many years in the food community. Without going into the gory details, there are two major factors with butter, Aw (Which is water activity) and pH/acidity. Butter is fermented during the pasteurization process, much like alcohol, the fermentation makes the butter more acidic, on top of this butter has a high fat content and a low water activity. The FDA code says salted butter is a Non TCS food, does not need to be refrigerated. Unsalted butter MAY be a TCS food.
Here is where it gets funny. Most butter held at room temperature on the line is used to brush, add to, or drizzle over food. For instance, if you brush a steak with butter to finish, you are introducing small amounts of a TCS food (beef) into the butter when you return the brush, therefore making it a TCS food. You could make an argument for butter in a squeeze bottle so long as it does not come into contact with TCS food.
In my career, inspectors have been about 50/50 with temping butter, here is my recommendation.
OPERATOR SOLUTION: The FDA food code allows for time as a public health control. To review, nearly all products can be in the danger zone for four hours before becoming hazardous, any food can be time controlled for public health. In order to hold a product as timed for public health, the item must be clearly labeled with the contents and the time which it must be discarded. Hold only a small amount of butter for a shift, tag it with a time four hours from when it is pulled, throw what is left away after four hours. Use a squeeze bottle to make sure there is no opportunity for cross contamination.
ICE CREAM AND ALLERGENS
Had a rare and odd situation with a client this week. One of their guests, a child with a nut allergy, had a reaction after eating vanilla ice cream. The parents had an epi-pen and the child is ok after a visit to the ER, but how did this happen?
Turns out the restaurant serves butter pecan ice cream, stored in the same ice cream freezer as the vanilla and somehow or another, the scoop was not cleaned and sanitized between uses or some of the butter pecan found its way into the vanilla.
Keep allergens separate from other foods. Store and pours are best for loose allergens like pecans and almonds. 1/9 pans in a cooler or on a counter are easy to mix with non-allergens. For ice cream: 1) Keep a separate scoop for ice cream containing nuts. 2) Have a system in place for allergies, bright yellow ticket, manager involvement, etc. to be extra careful. The server should always broadcast an allergy and over-communicate. 3) In the case of ice cream, make sure other ice creams are covered. 4) This client uses an old-school ice cream parlor dipping scoop, the surface of the scoops has become worn down to the point where the water bath is no longer sufficient to wash away any allergens that might remain. No one is sure exactly how this happened but these four steps will greatly decrease the opportunity for a mistake.
CAN I KEEP BREWED ICED TEA MORE THAN A DAY?
Brewed tea can actually be kept for seven days, according to the local chapter of the DBPR, it will have to be labeled and dated just like any other item held for more than 24 hours and refrigerated. From a taste and quality standpoint, this may not be a good idea.
OPERATOR SOLUTION: Brew only what you need for the shift, store the small amount of left over tea labeled and dated overnight, use first early the following day.
CAN AN EMPLOYEE WITH A CAST COVERING PART OF HIS/HER HAND SERVE FOOD?
An employee with a cast can serve food so long as he/she wears as disposable sleeve or large glove over the cast during food service.
The difficulty with this solution is the same rules apply as disposable gloves, they have to change the covering each time they bus a table or pick something up off the floor before going back to serve drinks or run food.
OPERATOR SOLUTION: Return the injured employee to modified duty, exempt from food running, with a covering, maybe re-assign running side work so the employee does not have to change the covering as often and let other staff members run food until the employee is 100%.
QUAT SANITIZER TEMPERATURE
Quat sanitizer must have a minimum temperature of 75°F, maddeningly 2° above your A/C set temperature. I have yet to see an inspector actually check the temp of sanitizer but they can technically do that. The temperature in your kitchen will not likely fall below 75° but in the dining room and behind the bar it could be an issue.
OPERATOR SOLUTION: Call the company who maintains your chemicals and make sure sanitizing equipment is designed to automatically blend hot and cold water, before it reaches the spigot, to a temperature around 100°F. There is normally no charge for this service. Most of the newer systems will already do this, but some of the older ones may not. What you don’t want is the unwitting staff member adjusting the temp of your sanitizer and creating a high priority violation. Change the sanitizer every 2-4 hours.
That’s it for August, if you find yourself with any questions or would like any clarifications, email is the best way to contact me email@example.com or phone 407-314-6871. I can respond to nearly all inquiries within 24 hours.