Don’t Take a Festive Break From Food Hygiene Controls

Kitchens are hectic places during the festive season, and with current hospitality sector staff shortages, Christmas 2021 could see chefs and their teams struggling to cope. 

Despite the temptation to get food to the pass quickly, it is vital commercial kitchens do not neglect hygiene, particularly with the volume of catering they accommodate during the season. Whilst they might be focusing on the ‘C’ in Christmas, chefs must pay just as much attention to the other four – cleaning, chilling, cooking and cross-contamination control. 

Their hygiene regime needs to focus on these on a throughout-the-day, end-of-shift, daily, weekly, monthly and biannual/annual basis.1 

On an ongoing basis, it is about doing things such as using different cutting boards for different foods, wiping down prep areas, emptying bins, regularly changing cleaning cloths and sanitising water and always cleaning equipment between cooking red meat, poultry and fish. 

At the end of each shift, it entails actions such as, cleaning all work clothing and cloths, sweeping and washing the floor, cleaning down equipment and ensuring nothing is left switched on. Over the festive season, paying particular attention to the cleaning of ice machines, buckets and drip trays in the bar area is also especially important.

Monthly chores include checking on fire risks. Grease and oil accumulation is a major hazard due to the build-up of fat and oil, and greasy deposits. Highly flammable deposits within ductwork can often be overlooked, and expert help may be required, to ensure the risk is addressed. The right fire extinguishers need to be at hand, well maintained and capable of being used by fully trained staff, who know which substance to use on each type of fire. Extractor hood filters should also be regularly replaced, to keep ventilation flowing. 

Oil in deep fat fryers needs to be regularly changed, and no waste oil should ever be poured down a drain. Doing so can lead to prosecution. Oil waste cannot be placed with regular waste and needs to be specially collected.2 

Cleaning freezers, walls and ceilings should be done at least monthly. Checking that fridge seals are not broken or dirty is an ongoing requirement. 

There is more, however. With new dishes often frequenting a Christmas menu for a limited period, it is imperative kitchens are on top of their allergen control and fully aware of whether any of the 14 allergens, which they are legally required to advise upon, are present in their dishes. Customers must be informed of these in a proactive way, and cross-contamination controls put in place, to ensure no allergen can be transferred from one ingredient or dish to another.3 

If festive PPDS (Pre-packed for Direct Sale) food is being offered – perhaps a festive sausage roll or turkey and stuffing sandwich – legally this must also now carry details of any allergens present, if the dish has been prepared at the premises from which it is being sold, or taken out for sale, perhaps at a festive market or food stall. 

Whilst Christmas can be a time of gluttony, it can also be one of significant food waste, with tonnes of edible poultry and carrots thrown out each festive season. 

Any food waste must be disposed of in a hygienic and environmentally friendly manner, but unnecessary food waste could also be avoided. The Government advises that leftovers can be cooled, then popped in the fridge or freezer within 1-2 hours, for reuse in other dishes, such as turkey curries and stews. As long as this is done in a foodsafe way, it could prevent unnecessary food waste heading to landfill. 

Get kitchen risk management right, and your dishes tickling the taste buds, and you may well generate return visits next year. Get it wrong and you may need to call upon your public liability, employers’ liability and management liability insurance policies, as well as perhaps other covers. 

As we head into Christmas 2021, it’s worth checking with your local broker that you have everything in your insurance armoury you need, just in case the worst should occur.

1 https://www.foodsafesystem.com/commercial-kitchen-cleaning-checklist/

2 https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/food-and-cooking-oil-waste  

3 https://www.food.gov.uk/safety-hygiene/food-allergy-and-intolerance