Food recalls involve food producers removing a product from the market when there’s a risk of harming consumers. It can be a voluntary recall by a supplier or one requested by government agencies.
Typically, food recalls can happen for a number of reasons, but some are more common than others. For example, a product may contain organisms like parasites or bacteria that can lead to food borne illnesses. Other times, foreign objects like glass could be in the food or a major allergen that hasn’t been put on the label.
In all of these situations, restaurants must act fast to eliminate the risk and keep their customers safe. But how?
Understand the Risks
When your restaurant has been issued with a recall notice from one of your suppliers, it’s essential to understand the risks associated with the recall. Typically, the USDA lists recalls in one of three classes.
A Class I health risk is the most serious of all. If the recalled food product is eaten, it can cause severe health consequences and even death. Examples of this might be undeclared peanuts in food that could cause an allergic reaction, cross-contamination, or harmful bacteria in seafood.
Class II health risks typically include food products that have a chance of causing harm. For example, suppose a foreign material from the manufacturing line ends up in food. In that case, there is a slight chance that someone could be harmed by consuming that food.
In a Class III recall, consumers won’t get sick by eating the food. Typically, such a recall relates to undeclared ingredients that aren’t allergens or a small labeling problem.
Have a Process For Staff to Follow
Recalls are a lot more common than you might think, with an entire section of the FDA website dedicated to outlining the most recent recalls. However, not all restaurant owners have processes for staff to follow when a food recall impacts their operations.
Make sure all food handling employees know to identify recalled products and remove them from your inventory. Store them away from other food, equipment, and single-use items and label them to prevent them from accidentally being put back with other food products for service.
It’s also essential to communicate the recall with all staff and follow your food supplier’s recommendations for what to do next. This might include returning the food to the supplier for a refund or disposing of it in a way outlined in your recall instructions.
Clean and Sanitize the Kitchen
Depending on the reason for the recall, performing a complete clean and sanitize above and beyond your regular cleaning practices may be necessary.
Clean and sanitize any part of the kitchen that the recalled food may have had contact with. As an extra layer of precaution, consider throwing away any unpackaged or opened goods that sat near your recalled products.
Wash and Sanitize Cookware and Utensils
If the recall came too late and you’ve already prepared and stored the recalled food, food handlers will need to wash and sanitize all cookware, cutting boards, utensils, and surfaces.
Use hot soapy water to clean counters, shelves, and refrigerator drawers, as well. A sanitizing solution is also necessary during this process, or use a tablespoon of unscented liquid bleach in one gallon of water.
These steps are particularly necessary when involving food items that have been recalled due to undeclared allergens. The last thing you want is to make your customers sick.
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