ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Despite constant innovation in foodservice, foodborne illnesses remain a major public health concern. Diseases caused by foodborne illnesses result in 48 million illnesses per year, said James Marsden, executive director of food safety for Chipotle, Newport Beach, Calif., during his Innovation Forum at Winsight and CSP’s2019 Outlook Leadership conference in Asheville, N.C.
The forum, Strategic Interventions for Managing Food Safety in Retail Food Operations, covered key components of an ideal food safety system within a retail food establishment.
Here are three tips on food safety Marsden gave c-store operators at Outlook …
Clean and swap your towels
One way to prevent foodborne illness in convenience stores is to change and clean the towels used to wipe down tables, Marsden said. These towels are often overused without being washed and can potentially contaminate tables even if they appear to be clean, he said.
“Cleanliness is a top priority for you and for your customers,” he said. “How many times have you sat in a restaurant and saw someone wipe your table with a dirty towel?”
Conduct health audits
Retailers may benefit from conducting public health audits for their foodservice programs, because it’s difficult for most corporate employees to remain up to date on each individual store, Marsden said. Take Chipotle, which conducts audits once per quarter with a third-party service and once per week by its own field leaders.
“You’re not just selling M&M’s anymore,” he said. “A catastrophic food safety event will kill your business, so why wouldn’t you take preventative steps and build these measures in your stores?”
Monitor employee health
Ensuring that store employees are not working while sick—even if they only have a bad cold—is critical to maintaining a healthy environment, Marsden said. One sick employee can lead to other sick team members, as well as customers falling ill. To prevent this, Chipotle conducts a health test between employees and their mangers during every clock-in. Managers ask how the workers are feeling, and if they have experienced any coughing or other flu symptoms. If they are, they are sent home, Marsden said.