You will quite often see some of the best chefs in the industry preparing food with their bare hands. It’s common practice, so why are we talking about bare-hand contact with food and making sure you avoid it?
When food is going to be cooked, all you have to concern yourself with are safe food handling practices like washing your hands. However, ready-to-eat foods require a different set of rules. Without high temperatures to kill any bacteria from your hands, ready-to-eat foods of any kind should not be handled with bare hands.
What Are Ready-to-Eat Foods?
You can define ready-to-eat foods as being anything that won’t be cooked or reheated prior to service. Sandwiches, smoked food, cooked meat, cheese, salads, and essentially anything that is going directly from your prep area to the customer’s table can fall into this category.
What Does The Law Say?
According to the 2009 FDA Food Code, all food employees shouldn’t touch ready-to-eat food with their bare hands, except when washing fruits and vegetables. Instead, they should use utensils like spatulas and tongs or dispensing equipment, single-use gloves, and deli tissue.
Why Shouldn’t You Touch Food With Your Bare Hands?
The primary reason why you shouldn’t touch ready-made food destined for customers with your bare hands is the risk of foodborne illnesses. According to the CDC, it is estimated that out of all foodborne illness outbreaks, at least 30 percent of them are caused by bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat food.
Even though handwashing can undoubtedly lower the risk, the risk is still not zero percent. Food handlers with illnesses such as norovirus can find themselves spreading the disease without even knowing it, all because it has such a long incubation period before affecting the person with it.
Serving Food Without Using Your Hands
It sounds impossible, doesn’t it? How are you supposed to serve ready-to-eat food without using your hands? Should you serve food while wearing gloves?
Servers who undertake an online food handlers card course in Texas can learn some of the best and safest food management techniques. However, regarding contactless service:
- Carry a plate in the palm of your hand with your thumb and fingers tucked underneath
- Never let your fingers touch the top of the plate
- Carry utensils by their handles
- Carry glasses and cups by their base or handle
- Use toothpicks to secure lemon and lime wedges in drinks
- Slice bread with a fork securing the bread in place
- Use tongs and spatulas while working on the foodservice line
- Prepare toast with deli tissue
Food Safety Tips For Ready-to-Eat Food
- Keep ready-to-eat food separate from raw meat, fish, poultry, unwashed veggies, and eggs
- Use separate chopping boards and utensils for ready-to-eat food
- Make sure all work surfaces and utensils are cleaned and sanitized
- During preparation and storage, keep all ready-to-eat food covered
- Wash your hands before and after handling fruit and vegetables
- Peel and wash vegetables to remove harmful bacteria
- Wash the cleanest vegetables and fruits first
- Store all ready-to-eat food as outlined by the manufacturer or standard food safety guidelines
- Never use food past its used-by date
- If removing ready-to-eat food from packaging, maintain the manufacturer information regarding food safety
- Throw any food away that has not been prepared or served within the guidelines above
Keep Your Customers Safe With a Food Handlers Course From TABC Pronto
All food handlers in Texas are required to complete a course to receive their Texas Food Handler License. For more information on food safety and to ensure you’re doing right by your customers, enroll for your Texas food handlers card through TABC Pronto.
The course is affordable, 100% online, and available through an easy-to-navigate portal. You can be on your way to safe customer service in no time!