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Secrets to Self Inspection by Sysco

Today we are going to highlight part one of a two part article by Sysco on Self Inspections. We at OpsAnalitica of course believe in and preach the self inspection model. It just makes sense to inspect daily for a number of reasons:

  • You need to be ready every day for the health inspector to show up
  • You need to be ready to serve guests before every meal period
  • By “inspecting what you expect” you drive desired behavior from your staff
  • Bottom line, if you run better operations you will increase profits

Sysco is a giant in the industry so this information is coming from a very credible source. The article suggests 3 types of self inspections:

  • A daily walk-through
  • Employee food safety practices
  • A scheduled inspection to check everything from proper stock rotation to chilling practices to equipment cleaning and maintenance

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Like with anything else, as the article suggests, you need to develop a system that works for your organization. The article recommends that you should “follow the flow of product through the operation and note critical points that should be monitored”, but should always include the following in your checks:

  • Receiving
  • Storage
  • Preparation
  • Cooking/serving/cooling/reheating
  • Cleaning and sanitation
  • A good inspection sheet will include some details-such as what the temperatures of various equipment and foods should be and what strength sanitizing solution should be to be effective-to take the guesswork out of the inspection

I have copied part one of the article below:

If, as the old adage suggests, physicians ought to know how to heal themselves, then the mantra of every foodservice facility’s operations bible should be “Foodservice, inspect thyself.”

No one should know more about serving safe food than those in the business of preparing and providing it to customers. But the biggest dangers posed in a foodservice operation are the things we can’t (or don’t choose to) see microorganisms and habits we take for granted.

“People tend to be blind to the things that happen every day that can cause foodborne illnesses,” says Robert Grottenthaler, a food safety consultant and former health inspector. “You have to set up a system against which you can check things.”

The best way to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to serve safe food is to inspect your own operation.

Why do it yourself? “You can’t rely on government to do your job,” Grottenthaler says. “Uniformity of health codes from state to state just isn’t there, and inspectors can be very subjective.” And state and local inspection agencies only conduct inspections an average of twice a year, too infrequently to ensure consistent food safety.

To avoid the potential damage a foodborne outbreak can cause, operators need to set their standards as high or higher than the FDA Model Food Code, he says.

“We started a self-inspection program about seven or eight years ago,” says Glenn Taylor, executive research chef for Foodservices Management Associates in Pittsburgh, operator of Dingbats and two other concepts. “We got nailed for things on several occasions, including a pizza oven that was not maintaining temperatures, using hands instead of tongs to transfer raw meat to the cooking surface, and some routine cleaning of walls and dumpsters, for example, and so we decided we needed to police ourselves.”

What to Inspect Self-inspection offers a way to improve the efficiency as well as the safety of your operation. “Fresh eyes looking over your operation are good, but if you rely on outside inspections, you miss opportunities to take corrective action and correct employee behavior on the spot,” says Julie Beezley, principal of Training & Development Resources, La Mesa, Calif.

To help spot and correct problems, Beezley suggests three types of self-inspections.

  • A daily walk-through. First thing in the morning, check to see how things were left from the night before. Was food covered and stored properly? Is the food at proper temperatures? Are coolers and freezers at the right temperatures? Is equipment cleaned and sanitized? Are work areas clean?
  • Employee food safety practices. Observe the food handling and personal hygiene practices of employees on a daily basis. Are employees clean and healthy? Are they washing their hands between tasks and after coming out of the restroom? Are they cleaning and sanitizing prep areas after each use? Are they storing wipedown cloths and cleaning rags in buckets of sanitizing solution? Are they checking food temperatures on the cooking and serving lines?
  • A scheduled inspection to check everything from proper stock rotation to chilling practices to equipment cleaning and maintenance. More formal than the morning walk-through, regularly scheduled inspections, held weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or however often managers feel it’s necessary, are a good way to encourage employees to make food safety practices a habit.

Setting up a self-inspection program first requires identifying potential trouble spots and how to minimize the risks they pose. “We targeted items that were most critical,” says Taylor, “The foods and preparation practices that, not handled safely, could result in making someone sick.”

Develop a System

Taylor used the local health inspection form as a blueprint to create a rudimentary self-inspection sheet covering areas like cooler temperatures and organization, hamburger prep, and a cleaning checklist. Then he implemented bi-weekly self-inspections. The process doesn’t have to be complex or overwhelming. In fact, the simpler it is, the better. Target high risk foods first and work backwards. Three factors that greatly minimize risks are temperature control, sanitation and personal hygiene.

Develop a self-inspection form in the same way you would create a HACCP plan. Follow the flow of product through the operation and note critical points that should be monitored. Here are some of the things to check.

  • Receiving. Assign dedicated employees to receiving. Train them to inspect vendors’ trucks to ensure they’re clean and that they separate raw meats and produce. Check package integrity and product temperatures. Use invoices to log observations. Make sure employees take corrective action when products aren’t up to spec (i.e., send product back).
  • Storage. Put products away immediately. Check cooler (40°F or below) and freezer temperatures (0°F or below) and check for cleanliness. Make sure products are protected, labeled and stored properly (raw meats well covered on bottom shelves or in separate walk-ins, for example). Check stock rotation.
  • Preparation. Observe proper thawing techniques including thawing under running cold water or overnight in a cooler. Inspect prep surfaces, utensils and equipment to make sure they are clean and sanitized. Eliminate hand contact wherever possible-use clean gloves and/or sanitized utensils, for example-and ensure proper handwashing is practiced however food is prepared. Observe how employees handle product and their personal hygiene habits
  • Cooking/serving/cooling/reheating. Check the temperatures of food at each stage. Calibrate thermometers and equipment on a regular basis. Observe employee practicesÑare they using correctly calibrated thermometers to monitor that foods are chilling and cooking to proper temperatures?
  • Cleaning and sanitation. Label and store chemicals properly. Inspect handwashing facilities. Check dishmachine temperatures and sanitizer strength. Observe how trash is handled and disposed of. Inspect equipment and workstations.
  • A good inspection sheet will include some details-such as what the temperatures of various equipment and foods should be and what strength sanitizing solution should be to be effective-to take the guesswork out of the inspection

We’ll continue this discussion with part two later on this week.

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[…] Here is part two of the Sysco article from yesterday around implementing a self inspection model. Click here to check out part one. […]

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