Prevent foodborne illness with four principles
The USDA’s Economic Research Service reports that foodborne illnesses cause more than 53,000 hospitalizations each year and more than 2,300 deaths. To help your operation prevent foodborne illness, Food Quality & Safety recommends you remember four principles: clean, separate, cook and chill. To keep hands, utensils and surfaces clean, wash hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and running water before and after food handling or using the bathroom. Wash the surfaces of cutting boards, counters, dishes and utensils with warm, soapy water. Use paper towels (instead of cloth towels) to clean counters or spills. Rinse or blanch the surfaces of fresh produce to eliminate dirt or bacteria. Next, separate to avoid cross-contamination. Ensure ready-to-eat foods aren’t placed on surfaces that held raw meat, seafood, poultry or eggs. Use separate cutting boards when preparing fresh produce and uncooked meats and properly wash the surfaces exposed to raw meat, seafood, poultry and eggs in warm, soapy, running water. Next, cook food to the proper temperature to kill dangerous bacteria. Foodsafety.gov recommends steak or ground beef be cooked to 160˚F, chicken or turkey to 165˚F, seafood to 145˚F and egg dishes to 160˚F. Finally, chill food properly to slow the bacterial growth process. Keep the refrigerator at 40˚F or below and maximize air circulation by not overcrowding foods inside. Don’t let raw meat, eggs or fresh produce sit out for more than two hours without refrigeration. Post checklists to help staff remember to follow all of the above steps amid the rush of preparing food each day.
If you operate a full-service restaurant, how do your employees feel about the minimum wage debate? As the minimum wage rises in many areas of the country, pay attention to how restaurant operators and workers in areas as different as Maine and Seattle, Wash. are already responding. The Washington Post reports that following a November referendum in Maine to raise servers’ hourly wages from $3.75 to $12 by 2024, restaurant workers campaigned heavily (and successfully) to overturn it, saying it would greatly reduce servers’ take-home income because it would cause customers to tip less. Servers in New York, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. are already mobilizing against a higher minimum wage. Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who strongly opposes raising the tipped minimum wage, is now working with waitstaff in Minneapolis and Seattle on similar efforts. In light of the minimum wage increase in Seattle – a phased-in $15-an-hour wage was passed in the city in 2014 and is not yet fully in place – a recent editorial in USA Today cited a study by the University of Washington and the National Bureau of Economic Research that said employers had already cut back employee hours to compensate for the higher wages. The editorial predicts that the drop in employment will make it more difficult for people to get jobs or work as many hours as they would like.
Internet of Things has broad food safety applications
Our ability to connect an increasing number of devices is playing out with important enhancements to food safety. Food Safety Tech reports that in farming, we’re likely to see driverless tractors take over traditionally driven ones, aerial drones assess the health of crops and deliver targeted applications of fertilizer and insecticide, which stands to minimize excess costs and damage to food. The Internet of Things will help foodservice operators manage shipments more accurately and improve their monitoring of food quality as well. Expect major advances in pest management too, as a network of connected sensors better identifies and tracks pest populations and monitors their growth, enabling pest management companies to treat infestations in a more targeted way.
3D underwater farming offers creative opportunity to chefs
As climate change threatens the environment (and for fishermen, the economy too), people who make their living providing seafood to foodservice operators are turning to vertical underwater farming, also called 3D farming. One benefit of the effort is that thousands of vitamin-rich sea vegetables are being discovered and brought to menus for the first time. A recent report in Invironment details one fisherman, whose 20-acre 3D farm provides native seaweeds, which he says contain more vitamin C than orange juice, more calcium than milk and more protein than soybeans. By eating what fish eat, he says, people can attain the benefits of eating fish without stressing the fish supply. His farm is partnering with chefs to create kelp noodles, green sea butters and cheeses, and kelp-based umami-filled bouillons, for example.
Nanotechnology set to advance many areas of food industry
Nanotechnology has growing applications in food – and is poised to improve food safety, processing and packaging and even develop new foods that optimize nutrient delivery in the years ahead. New Food magazine reports that between 2015 and 2021, the nanotechnology market focused on the food industry is expected to triple, to $20.4 billion. If you like to stay on the cutting edge of food technology, watch for developments in antimicrobial surfaces and sensors that change color when food begins to degrade, for example, and the development of new ingredients that could enhance food solubility and nutrient delivery.
Harness your in-house social media power
Your social media campaigns need your employees in order to thrive. Do you have their buy-in? Social Media Week recommends you first enhance your employee culture – if people are happy to come to work, their enthusiasm will extend to other areas of their lives. Develop a social brand value – so you’re shifting your company’s influence from your brand onto people who can spread your message and connect with others without launching into a premeditated sales pitch. Identify employees who are willing to spread your message and have thousands of followers and active social lives. Guide your employees to post and share content without telling them exactly what to say. Anything you post and expect to be shared should be share-worthy, support the brand or add value to the customer.
Dynamic pricing gives supermarkets an edge
Technology is making it easier for food retailers t o change their prices during the day based on demand. This dynamic pricing could make products like bananas, for example, more expensive in the afternoon than in the morning, according to the BBC. Digital displays, along with vast amounts of consumer data, are allowing retailers to change the price of hundreds of thousands of items instantaneously to attract specific types of customers at different times of day. Some supermarkets, for example, are starting to use this technology to discount lunch items in the morning to encourage customers to buy lunch early – and perhaps forgo their usual restaurant take-out later in the day.
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