Taking the Temperature of Food Safety

Experts offer tips from foodservice front lines

Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP

Justin Waldrep (left), Keith Rowland

LAS VEGAS -- Consumers aren't just savvier about technology, the Internet and social media. They're also a lot savvier about food safety. "They watch the news. They're wary of anyone who handles food, but especially c-stores because you're not traditional foodservice," said Nancy Caldarola, education director of NACS Cafe.

Caldarola on Sunday moderated a session during the 2012 NACS Show that explored the "patchwork quilt" of local, state and federal food safety regulations and how retailers can ensure they are compliant once an inspector walks in the door.

Justin Waldrep, food safety manager for RaceTrac Petroleum Inc., Atlanta, broke the food safety chain into seven sections--each requiring the creation of standard protocols and procedures that adhere to a municipality's regulations:

  • Supply-chain protocol, including third-party audits and ingredient supplier approval processes for all vendors. Require packaging vendors to follow protocol as well.
  • Transportation provider protocol. Waldrep recommends annual inspections of facilities and trucks as well as spot checks. He rides with drivers throughout the year to observe their practices.
  • Distribution center protocol, including third-party audits and regular inspections.
  • Hygiene protocol, including employee rules for calling in sick, and proper food handling rules.
  • Receiving food. Check for damaged packages and pest infestation, and get food into storage quickly.
  • Cooking, hot-holding and cold-holding protocol. Keep in-depth temperature logs for a proper paper trail and to ensure employees are following protocol. "You can't track what you don't measure," said Waldrep.
  • Sanitation protocol, including using foodservice-safe cleaning supplies.

When it comes to sanitation, Keith Rowland, corporate account manager for Ecolab, recommended that retailers list all the touchpoints in their stores, such as coffee spigots, cooler doors and door handles. This process provides the retailer with a list of all the spots that need to be sanitized on a regular basis. And be thorough, he said. Retailers often miss many critical spots, such as the sanitation sink itself.

Waldrep and Rowland also shared advice on what to do when the inspector comes calling. Waldrep recommended creating a poster with all the typical questions an inspector can ask an employee, including the answers. Not only can employees reference it daily to ensure that they are following standard procedures, but the manager on duty also can refer inspectors right to the poster.

A simple yet crucial tip: Waldrep advised that retailers have many thermometers on hand at all time. "You do not want an inspector to come in and can't find a thermometer," he said. "If he can't find it, your employees can't find it."

Abbie Westra, CSP/Winsight By Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP
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